How Kerry must put doubt in young Dublin duo

The three points which Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan supplied on September 1 compared rather poorly to the impressive totals the pair had run up en route to the decider.

How Kerry must put doubt in young Dublin duo

The three points which Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan supplied on September 1 compared rather poorly to the impressive totals the pair had run up en route to the decider.

Averaging 0-7 a game between them coming into the drawn final, Mannion’s brace and O’Callaghan’s solitary point last Sunday week was less than half their typical match-day contribution.

In the case of O’Callaghan, his noticeably thin impression on the scoresheet in no way reflected the extent to which he troubled the Kerry defence from open play. Indeed, the 0-1 beside his name at the final whistle made a mockery of the unease the 23-year old stirred.

Having collected a Paul Mannion pass in the 20th minute, O’Callaghan was fouled by Jason Foley. Dean Rock may have missed the resulting place-kick, but of the six frees the latter would convert over the course of the 70+ minutes, three were won by the 2017 Young Footballer of the Year.

Moreover, it was his direct running deep in Kerry territory late in the second half which gave rise to a Gavin Crowley’s indiscretion on Paddy Small, the Kerry defender lunging into the Dublin sub after the ball spilt from O’Callaghan’s grasp. That too was directed between the posts by Rock.

It was the end of the first half, rather than the second, though, when Con’s involvement most upset the Kingdom rearguard: There was the save he forced from Kingdom keeper Shane Ryan, referee David Gough calling back the play for an earlier foul on the Dublin forward when no goal materialised; he drifted clear of Tom O’Sullivan to land his one and only point on the half-hour mark, winning yet another free two minutes later.

The high ball which O’Sullivan knocked away from O’Callaghan less than 80 seconds after the restart was the first ball the corner-back thwarted Con from getting. But the Cuala talent would avenge this lost aerial battle when fielding Mick Fitzsimons’ punt into the Kerry danger area 11 minutes later. This he managed despite the illegal pressure being applied by the Dingle defender. Con laid off possession to Mannion who kicked his second, Gough promptly removing the yellow card from his leabhar and flashing it in O’Sullivan’s direction.

So to reiterate what was said above, Con O’Callaghan’s worth on September 1 ran far deeper than the 0-1 he notched.

Barry O’Shea, who was in the full-back line for Kerry’s 1997 All-Ireland final win, believes it is “next to nigh impossible” to render an inside forward of O’Callaghan’s class scoreless. To curtail him to a meaningful degree is as much as a defender can hope for, even for someone of O’Sullivan’s ability — the 22-year-old has shackled every forward he was detailed onto during Kerry’s run to the decider.

Paul Mannion may have scored double that of his inside colleague the weekend before last, but he wasn’t half as effective from loose play. His part in two of Jack McCaffrey’s points was the extent of his highlights reel. For his opposite number, Tadhg Morley, it was another job well done.

O’Shea said Morley and O’Sullivan will need to be at their most resolute during the opening quarter of tomorrow’s replay, as Mannion and O’Callaghan will be men possessed in trying to stamp their authority on this second instalment.

“For the past fortnight, Jim Gavin will have been saying to them: ‘Ye go out there and turn this around’. That will have been drilled into them,” O’Shea remarked.

“If you are Tadhg Morley or Tom O’Sullivan sitting down in your kitchen this week, well, you have got to be ready for a right hurricane coming at you in the first quarter of an hour. But if you can stick in, hold on in there, and win a couple of early balls, then the Dublin boys will start doubting themselves.

“There is nothing more dangerous than a defender with a very strong mentality and feeling he has you. If he has that, he’ll grind you down mentally. If the defender can win the first ball, the second ball, the third ball, then these forwards are going to start looking at the sideline, because if you have had a bad game or a not-so-great game the last day, and if it is still not happening for you 15 or 20 minutes into the next game, it takes an awful strong mentality to keep going.”

O’Shea added: “If you can do a reasonably good job on Con, then you are going to be happy enough with that match-up. Take the assists and frees he won the last day — the other fellas still have to kick it over the bar, whereas in the previous game, Con kicked two goals early in the second half and it was game over. If Kerry had conceded two goals, Dublin would have won handsomely.

“In terms of concentration levels when marking Con, you cannot let up for a second, because he will finish the game. I had a perfect view of Tom and Tadhg in the second half of the drawn game, and their concentration was spot on. It’ll need to be more of the same again.”

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