It sure isn’t the points.
For the second time in seven days, they scored three goals yet were well beaten in the points department.
There were more damning facts for Pat Gilroy to digest.
Kerry registered 16 scores to their 13.
After 50 minutes, Dublin had a dismal three points (2-3) to their credit.
Michael Darragh MacAuley’s 51st minute goal reawakened Dublin and set them on a path to a third straight Division One win but it was understandable why Gilroy was keen to temper the victory.
In his first year in 2009, he bought into the idea of attempting to outscore teams, taking risks at the back to commit more players forward. Kerry showed up the folly of such a tactic. He’s been trying to get away from it ever since.
“We’d be very happy to have two more points but conceding 18 points in inter-county?” shrugged Gilroy. “Now I will make allowances for the fact that it is Croke Park and there is extra space at this time of the year.
“But 18 points, I think we have the worst defensive record now in the league, so we have a lot of work to do.
“We seemed to be doing okay for the first 60 minutes but then our defence was not good in the last 10 minutes so we have plenty to be working on. The goals are saving our bacon and it is great to create them. Again we had a number of chances apart from the ones we got so we have to be very happy with that. You can’t knock that.”
If Gilroy got the result he wanted, Jack O’Connor was rewarded with the performance he demanded. They hauled back four-point deficits in both halves, were the better side for long periods and can count themselves unlucky not to have picked up a point.
“Overall, we’re encouraged,” he said. “The Dubs are very fit and full of running and 15 minutes into the second-half it looked like they might over-run us. I thought we showed great courage and chipped away a few scores there at the end. I’m happy with the performance but disappointed not to get a point out of it.”
Kerry had recovered well from Tomas Quinn and Kevin McManamon’s goals in the first 15 minutes, scoring one of their own via Bryan Sheehan’s penalty then pegging back Dublin to restore parity at the break, Sheehan’s free in added time making it 1-6 to 2-3.
With David Moran showing real mettle in midfield, they kept Dublin scoreless for the first 13 minutes of the second-half while at the same time adding on a couple of points (although they’ll rue their total of 15 wides).
Even when Dublin’s revival — sparked by MacAuley’s goal obliterated Kerry’s advantage and saw the home side hold a four-point lead with eight minutes left, Kerry didn’t panic.
Donnchadh Walsh was a magnet for the ball and went about feeding Darran O’Sullivan and Colm Cooper for scores. The latter looked to have the beating of Dublin on his own when he knocked over a couple of points in as many minutes to level things up at the end of normal time. But then Bernard Brogan, who had played second fiddle to Marc Ó Sé for most of the game, managed to slip him and score the winner.
After some handbags stuff between players and a dispute over where Kerry’s free should be taken, there was still time for Sheehan to shoot from 50 metres but he sent it wide.
In the league table, Kerry had nothing to show for their efforts but O’Connor found plenty of nourishment from the game. Cooper, for one, was back to his best. “This is his theatre,” said the manager. “If he plays as well as that for the rest of the year we’ll have every chance.”
It was Moran’s success that warmed O’Connor most. “Dave Moran contributed a ferocious amount of ball after that and turned in a great display in the middle of the field, which is also very encouraging because it has been a problem area for us. I thought himself and Scanlon acquitted themselves very well even though the Dubs have a great system going with the kick-outs now. You have to hand it to (Stephen) Cluxton, he’s able to hit the target more often than not.”
It was Cluxton’s kick-outs that Kerry targeted to such effect in 2009. As for Gilroy, he allowed himself to cite the positives of the win as well as the obvious negatives. Dublin kicked just six wides, two coming in the second-half. Their conversion rate pleased him.
“I think we created a lot of chances last year and we didn’t take them. Even in the Cork match in the semi-final we had a number of chances and fluffed them. I think we are a bit more clinical. We have been doing a lot of work on it, and they seem to be coming from different people, so we’d have to be happy with that.”
Dublin: S Cluxton; A Hubbard, S Murray, M Fitzsimons; D Lally (0-1), J McCarthy, P Casey; D Bastick, B Cahill; P Flynn (0-1), K McManamon (1-1), D Connolly; T Quinn (1-0), E O'Gara (0-1), B Brogan (0-4, 3 frees).
Subs used: MD Macauley (1-1) for Bastick (half-time), A Brogan (0-1) for Quinn, B Cullen for Connolly (both 49), G Brennan for McCarthy (52), P Andrews for Flynn (64).
Kerry: B Kealy; P Reidy, M O Se, K Young; T O Se, E Brosnan, A O'Mahony; S Scanlon, B Sheehan (1-5, 1 penalty, 4 frees); D Moran (0-1), Darran O'Sullivan (0-2), D Walsh (0-1); C Cooper (0-6, 1 free), K Donaghy, D Geaney.
Subs used: K O'Leary for D Geaney (21 mins), J Lyne for T O Se (54), A Maher for Brosnan (58), A O'Connell for O'Mahony (66).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)