Dublin have edge on rough day for marquee men

Dublin and Kerry were expecting a good deal from their marquee forwards yesterday — the Diarmuid Connolly-Bernard Brogan axis in sky blue, and the threat posed by Colm Cooper and James O’Donoghue in the Kerry corners. In keeping with the result, Dublin got more value from their offensive threats than the Kingdom.

Dublin have edge on rough day for marquee men

Connolly was the first of the players to feature. From the throw-in he jabbed the ball smoothly into his hands and found Brian Fenton driving through to score the first point of the game. However, that was one of only two Connolly contributions of note in the opening 20 minutes.

At the other end, Colm Cooper was even more peripheral; one of his only touches of the ball came with a typically well-placed foot-pass to O’Donoghue, who hit a fine point on 16 minutes, but that was as much as Kerry got from the Dr Crokes man in the first half.

O’Donoghue himself was operating in a deeper role and struggled early on to get to the pace of the game. In the opening five minutes he fouled the ball and his man on separate occasions and also saw a pass go astray.

Still, he contributed Kerry’s opening point, hit a 45 wide, lost possession and added another point — from that Cooper pass — before 20 minutes were gone. In a low-scoring half it was a significant contribution.

So was the hard work done by the two Kerry forwards to pressurise Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out. The Dublin ‘keeper put a couple of early efforts out over the sideline thanks in no small way to Cooper and O’Donoghue working hard to limit his options.

Their counterparts in the Dublin full-forward-line fared no better in the same opening period; Bernard Brogan’s first touch was to handle the ball on the ground near the Kerry goal on three minutes, conceding a free, and a minute later he spilled a ball one would expect him to hold, even allowing for the conditions.

It was the 15th minute before Brogan intervened again, finding Dean Rock, who shot wide, while two minutes later Connolly won a ball, lost it and won it again before laying it off.

Brogan found McCaffrey with a pass, and when the wing-back was fouled, Rock pointed. On 23 minutes, Connolly set off on one of his trademark slaloming solo runs, only to lose the ball and pick up a yellow card for sliding into his opponent. Brogan chipped in with a point from play two minutes after that.

O’Donoghue continued to work diligently for Kerry. He found Paul Geaney with a terrific pass for another Kerry point on 25 minutes, though his shot three minutes later tailed wide; meanwhile, Cooper’s marker, Philly McMahon, ranged upfield for Dublin’s final point of the half.

Cooper was immediately involved on the resumption, winning the first free of the half, though the attack ultimately came to nothing. O’Donoghue was involved in setting up Kerry’s first score after the break, while Cooper fed Darran O’Sullivan for Kerry’s second.

Before we hit 40 minutes, Connolly soloed through the Kerry defence and won a free converted by Brogan.

At the other end, O’Donoghue put a scorable chance wide; on 44 minutes Brogan came close to getting a goal, poking a snap shot wide of the posts. He was involved in the build-up to Dublin’s next point also.

On 47 minutes, Connolly caught superbly and tried to place Brogan with a long foot-pass, but the corner-forward couldn’t retain possession.

On 50 minutes, O’Donoghue hit another point, and then the Dublin axis hit a barren spell — both Connolly and Brogan hit wides, then Connolly started a Dublin attack with a languid solo run around the middle; eventually Dublin won a very scorable free, only for Brogan to hit another wide.

Heading into the final ten minutes Kerry clearly were trying to get Cooper into the game, and the Killarney man went deep, trying to thread a pass through the middle only for Dublin to intercept. Within a minute O’Donoghue lost possession and was withdrawn.

Brogan made two more significant contributions — on 66 minutes he laid off a sensible ball to his brother Alan, just on as a sub; the latter surged downfield for the score that put Dublin four ahead. Deep in injury-time, Brogan won a free inside the Kerry 20-metre line that took the pressure off his side, even if Connolly drove it wide.

It was interesting that O’Donoghue was substituted when he scored three points and was involved in setting up two more — over half of Kerry’s tally. Brogan was the most effective of the four, hitting two points himself, helping create another two, and making two significant contributions in the closing minutes to help seal Dublin’s win.

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