What. A. Game.
I had a friend over from England, it was his first time watching a Gaelic football match live, and his expression after the game said it all.
When Gaelic football is played right, this game has it all. We haven’t been blessed with a lot of outstanding matches these last five or six years because of the way some teams play, but we were all lucky to see an All-Ireland final like that.
Kudos to both Dublin and Kerry for going about the game the way they went about it, and let’s hope we have something like that to look forward to the next day.
As ever, the kickout strategies were key and I take my hat off to Shane Ryan. He was under an enormous amount of pressure coming into this game and he did as well as could be expected under that kind of scrutiny.
He gave Kerry the advantage early on and got them on the front foot.
When you look at the two presses, Kerry definitely edged things in that area and to win the replay they will have to be better again.
Kerry won 68% of their first-half kickouts, which was good considering the pressure, and both keepers had more influence than I have ever seen in an All-Ireland final.
Cluxton is very good at picking out a player, he just has that in his armoury, and the ball he kicked out for Howard which led to Jack McCaffrey sticking it in the net was a magnificent passage of play.
And that was Cluxton when he had nothing to aim for.
He looked up and didn’t look for the go-to men like McCarthy or MacAuley, he went for Howard, and Dean Rock won another superb kickout shortly after that.
Cluxton is lucky to have so many players to hit. We had a good view of what he was looking at, and he was looking at four in the full-back line, three in the middle, three in half-forward line and four pushing right up on him.
That is a very aggressive press.
The only team who have done that to Dublin is Mayo and Kerry must have looked at that template. It cost them for the goal, but over the course of the 80 minutes, they will take that.
I had thought Kerry needed to be almost 100% accurate to have a chance, maybe that was over-egging it slightly, but it’s incredible to think that they only converted about one out of every three chances and still took Dublin right to the wire.
A lot of people walking out of Croke Park yesterday were saying Kerry have missed their chance, and that is probably true, but they’ll know Dublin aren’t the only team with room for improvement.
David Clifford had an off-day, Paul Geaney could be better, so they still have that in reserve.
Kerry still have the wherewithall to win it, given they didn’t get a lot out of their forwards and they got more out of their bench than Dublin did.
David Gough refereed it well considering the pressure he was under. Given the conspiracy theories that were flying around, he kept the game going as well as he could, although Jonny Cooper’s sending-off was harsh, I felt, given the context of the game.
Three fouls and he was off, in an All-Ireland final.
The penalty was not one you normally see given and Gough could have done with more help from his umpires, because Cluxton was so far off his line for the save. Again, that is not a call you see given very often.
Jack McCaffrey was awesome. He kicked points I didn’t think he could kick off both feet, and the goal was superb.
When you’ve buried the ball in the back of the net like that, you’d think you’d run out and push your man and let him know you’ve scored, but he didn’t lay a glove on Gavin White. He just picked him up and got on with it, no-nonsense stuff. He is Gaelic football’s Dwight Yorke!
Dublin need to look at the bench because Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara are still viable options. They had guys on the bench who were never going to be used.
Brogan looked as sharp as any of the Dublin forwards when he came on against Tyrone and I can see him coming in. Jim Gavin needs to freshen it up, and he will. He is a master of that.
Brian Fenton will be a player trying to prove a point the next day because Jack Barry was exceptional once again, and what can you say about Dean Rock? Why do people still underestimate him?
He is quality. I was a free-taker, and if I kicked that one on the sideline once in every three times I’d be happy. He was right up behind McCaffrey in terms of Dublin’s top performers.
The initial feeling is that Kerry have missed the boat.
When they look back on the first 20 minutes, they’ll think they should have made more hay, because Dublin were slow to start.
Both can, and will, be better the next day and as they wake up this morning, Dublin will be the most relieved of the two teams to still have another chance.