Keane certain this will only fast track Kerry’s learning curve

Draws, by their very nature, tend to leave us with more questions than answers.

Keane certain this will only fast track Kerry’s learning curve

Draws, by their very nature, tend to leave us with more questions than answers.

Expectations of definitive judgments are placed on ice. In this instance for another 12 days, until Dublin and Kerry stitch another line into the fabric of this fabled rivalry and yet one conclusion is surely inevitable before this most pregnant of pauses.

Some still doubted the nature of Tommy Walsh’s input after the semi-final revival against Tyrone. It’s not that anyone doubted his effectiveness that day.

He set up points for David Moran and David Clifford while creating space for Stephen O’Brien’s killer goal, but there was an argument that maybe he had been sent into the maelstrom just as Kerry were finding their feet in the element anyway.

That he accelerated rather than prompted the recovery.

It was a curiously harsh take given the thumbprints he had left behind earlier in the league. Walsh had shown through the spring that he offered value as both a target man and as a hod carrier and fetcher around the middle third.

He did so again during the Super 8s when Kerry put down an uprising by Meath in Navan.

The Kerins O’Rahilly’s clubman came on with half-an-hour to play in Páirc Tailteann, with Meath still nipping furiously at their heels, and he arrived on the scene with 53 minutes gone yesterday and with Kerry in need of a new lead or two at a time when the Dublin scent had gone stale.

“We got a good bounce out of our subs today and Tommy was one of those guys,” said Peter Keane with his exceptional knack for understatement. “What did he do? He had two shots and he scored one and missed one but set up another one so he had a good day, yeah.”

Keane actually sold Walsh a tad short.

It was the veteran who opened the door for Killian Spillane to step through the Dublin defence and score the goal that rebooted a contest that was fading from our screens. It was Walsh who kicked the next point having kicked his first attempt on goal wide. It was Walsh who fed Sean O’Shea for Kerry’s next score and he had a hand in the execution of O’Shea’s follow-up too.

Add in the 1-1 that Killian Spillane landed off the bench — on a day when David Clifford, Stephen O’Brien and Paul Geaney managed just three points between them — and it leaves Keane & Co with a handful of awkward but enviable decisions the next day. And if James O’Donoghue is fit for the replay, well then better again.

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Kerry manager Peter Keane shake hands. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Kerry manager Peter Keane shake hands. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Decisions on personnel and tactics won’t decide the replay alone. Underdogs tend to be bitten badly second time around, regardless of the sport or the venue, and Kerry could be forgiven for harbouring plenty of regrets as they regroup for training either tomorrow or Wednesday evening.

“Ah no. I wouldn’t say it is an opportunity missed,” said Keane when that was put to him. “At the end of the day we weren’t in an All-Ireland final since 2015. You have a young team.

What are they going to get only experience out of the game? There is a learning curve. I said all along that we were on a crash course of a learning curve and this is only helping it.

Keane didn’t dally long to chat in a frustratingly fenced-in press conference that was hamstrung before it started by the announcement from the attendant GAA official that the Kerry boss had only five minutes to spare and that the questions had better be quick.

There was certainly no temptation to linger on talk of a possible 46th-minute penalty for Stephen O’Brien when he was manhandled by Jack McCaffrey while the notion that they missed at least a hat-trick of gilt-edged goal chances was countered by the argument that they were at least creating them.

Keane certainly has much to content him this next two weeks or so.

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Kerry's Paul Murphy. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Kerry's Paul Murphy. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Virtually nobody outside of Kerry gave his young and inexperienced side much of a chance against a side that was chasing a five in a row and a seventh title in nine attempts.

He doesn’t give much away but his assertion that one dog might have a heart attack in a two-dog race was a novel way of saying he never doubted his team’s bona fides here.

The task now will remain the same in some respects but different in others. Blocking out all that outside noise will again be a focus but this time the buzz around his team will come at different pitches.

Some will say their chance has been and gone, others will use this draw as evidence that history is within their grasp.

Not just an All-Ireland but a chance to deny the drive for five.

“Some guys think about using this motivation but, at the end of the day, you have a Kerry team and you are a Kerry player,” he explained.

You have been kicking ball against the gable of a wall since you were knee-high. You want to play on a day like this, don’t you?

“You feel you were born for this, to get up to Croke Park. Like I said, we hadn’t been here since 2015 so you want to be here on these days. So we get a second bite at it. And to go back to (another) point about satisfaction, Jaysus, it would be a lot worse going out of here having lost, wouldn’t it?”

Quirke's Final Podcast: Kerry learn on the job. Gavin's gaffe. 'O'Shea is a joke'. Gough's big calls

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