If you were lucky enough to get a seat in Croke Park yesterday then you certainly can’t quibble about value for money.
Fans were treated to two exciting games of football where every man on the field emptied the tank.
Aptly named, the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship final was thrilling.
A gallant young Galway team were put to the sword in extra time by the latest exciting bunch of Rebels. End-to-end football was played by both sets of teenagers. The question is — why weren’t they afforded a replay like their senior counterparts?
The Cork captain had barely gotten his hands on the Tom Markham Cup when the Kingdom, breaking rank, tore onto the pitch, immediately setting down a marker.
When the ball was thrown in, Jonny Cooper was intent on laying down his marker. His afternoon was over before the break when he received a second yellow card.
But, as we saw in last month’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final between Tipperary and Wexford, numerical advantage is no guarantee of success.
Paul Murphy was nominated as the spare man for the second half. I think Kerry are wasting Murphy’s talents when they task him with these duties.
He should be allowed to bomb up the field more frequently. He loves being in the thick of the action and relishes man-marking and battling for breaking ball.
The one real excursion he made up the park almost produced a wonder goal. Yet again, it was a case of Stephen Cluxton to the rescue for Dublin.
We’re all acutely aware of the impact of a sending off. Galvanise the 14 and disorientate the 15. Were Dublin galvanised? Did they raise their game to a higher level in the second half? I don’t think so.
Dublin don’t need a sending off to psyche them up.
They’re a determined bunch who will be a whole lot more determined after yesterday, but the sending off and the resultant switching of Brian Howard to the half-back line had a negative impact on the Dubs.
As predicted in these pages on Saturday, Howard was the “go-to man” for Cluxton and this materialised due to Kerry’s impressive hounding of Fenton and Macauley.
Brian Mullins and Jack O’Shea must have been smiling from ear to ear, delighting at the spectacular fielding that Howard was producing in the opening half. Crucially too, they were manufacturing scores for Dublin.
Add in Dean Rock’s huge, but under-rated, catches and suddenly Dublin weren’t too worried about the nullification of their central axis.
But that all changed after half time when Howard had to concentrate on defending, and this robbed Dublin of a vital ball-winner. Dublin had to bide their time when in possession and this caused slow deliveries into Mannion and O’Callaghan.
Paul Mannion had the better of Tadhg Morley in terms of winning clean possession but, on several occasions, he uncharacteristically fumbled and spilled the ball.
This resulted in lost goalscoring opportunities for the champions and although Mannion scored two points, Morley will be the happier today. Mannion’s sidekick Con O’Callaghan also won every ball played into him, and he was looking really menacing.
The stats will show that a combination of Tom O’Sullivan and Jason Foley kept Con to a solidarity point from play. Those stats will also tell you that O’Callaghan was repeatedly being fouled.
He engineered several handy frees for Rock and almost nipped in for two goals in the opening half.
The one aerial missile fired into Con in the second half almost resulted in a penalty and Dublin are sure to consider more ‘route-one’ deliveries to O’Callaghan and his inside colleagues in the replay.
Also up for grabs in the replay is the positioning of James McCarthy. He looked surprisingly leggy, as did several Dublin players, and it would be no surprise if he moves into midfield for the replay.
Sean O’Shea’s mobility caused him some problems and McCarthy may be better equipped to put the shackles on David Moran.
This could open the door for Eoin Murchan to start and be tasked with trying to dampen the influential O’Shea.
Murchan has serious speed — and speed can really hurt Kerry. Jack McCaffrey once again produced broadband speed yesterday and Dublin will need him to produce further bolts of brilliance if they are to score more goals and win.
Who will win the next instalment? It’s too early to say. Like the players, we all need a few days of recovery. Let’s take time to digest what’s happened before Part II comes.
Confidence and belief, never lacking in the Kingdom, will have grown tenfold down south.
Can Kerry turn this confidence into match-winning scores, or will Dublin keep their cool and discipline and successfully climb the steps of both immortality and the Hogan Stand?