Eamonn Fitzmaurice: "It was a poor performance, simple as that"

Dublin 2-14 Kerry 0-14: The essence of a rivalry is give and take. Right now, in fact, for as long as some care to remember, it is Dublin who have been doing all the taking.

Earlier in the week, Marc Ó Sé admitted last September’s three-point defeat was flattering. In comparison, this six-point reverse was positively deceptive.

Kerry had goal chances but they were dwarfed by those created at their own end and Eamonn Fitzmaurice knew it. “It’s not as if it’s game over for us or anything like that but we’re lucky that we don’t have a minus 10 or minus 12 scoring difference going down the road.”

Since Fitzmaurice took the reins in 2013, Kerry have faced Dublin four times in Croke Park and four times they have lost. He admitted afterwards he wasn’t overly confident about breaking that record prior to Saturday’s game but that sense of reality didn’t prepare him for how poor his side were in the second-half.

“We felt coming up it was going to be a big ask to win the game but we prepared reasonably well over the last couple of weeks. We don’t have a huge pile of work done but I just felt if you hadn’t seen last year’s All-Ireland final and you came in and looked at it, you would have maybe said that we had beaten Dublin and that they were the team that looked hungrier and looked more anxious to prove a point.

“That was the disappointing thing from our point of view.

“I felt our attitude should have been better, our work rate wasn’t near good enough. “Even in possession our accuracy was well off but, no, it was a poor performance simple as that.”

Indeed, for the second time in over four months, it was Dublin who appeared the hungrier. It was also Dublin who looked to have more in reserve – they had only one more All-Ireland final starter than Kerry beginning this game.

But that’s where Fitzmaurice drew the line: “I think Dublin are a bit further down the road in their preparations. They had their holiday in early December and they seemed to have a bit more work done that we have done anyway. I wouldn’t say that (Dublin have a deeper pool). I think they have a very strong squad, everyone knows that.

“Even some of the peripheral players that were getting a run out, they’re experienced players that have been part of their squad for the Jim Gavin era.

“I think we have a strong squad as well, but not enough fellas did themselves justice.” It should sicken Kerry that Jim Gavin was making excuses for them afterwards but then, as Fitzmaurice implied, there was little suggestion any of them were harnessing the hurt from that third consecutive Championship defeat, second in an All-Ireland final, last September.

Tactically, Kerry did nothing to contend with the factors coming into the game — lack of preparation, away match, Dublin’s firepower — that pointed to them being up against it.

They played man-to-man aside from the first quarter when David Moran and Johnny Buckley were joined by Tommy Walsh across midfield. Walsh was prominent there as he was at full-forward but that route one ball into him was the most effective approach said so much about Kerry’s attacking play.

They did eventually draw level and went into the break with Dublin at 0-7 apiece but had been riding onto Dublin’s coat-tails. Donnchadh Walsh and Barry John Keane had tame efforts at goal saved but Brendan Kealy’s goal was under siege in comparison.

“Execution could have been a lot better in most of them,” said Gavin of his men’s first half goal opportunities.

“So that gives us something to take away for the remainder of the league. But to see them being created, from a coaching perspective, is very pleasing.

“A quiet word at half-time to sharpen a few things up and I thought our conversion rate was much improved in the second-half. And, overall, to score 1-10 from play in the opening round of the National League is pleasing enough for the time of the year.”

Andrews’ 42nd minute goal tilted the game in Dublin’s favour and Kerry were eating their dust when Diarmuid Connolly from the penalty spot punished a footblock by Brian Ó Beaglaoich on James McCarthy. Debutant Ó Beaglaoich was one of Kerry’s better performers, eventually getting to grips with speed merchant Paul Mannion.

Kerry kept their scoreboard ticking over without ever troubling Stephen Cluxton while Dublin could have another couple of goals when John Small and then Jack McCaffrey spanked shots against the metalwork. At the final whistle, what surely was disappointment among the Kerry players could have been mistaken for relief.

“Kerry are a class side,” said Gavin. “They’ve got class players. Class management team. They’ll be back.”

The Dublin manager may well be right but in the context of how this rivalry has turned 180 degrees, it might be interpreted as pity.

Scorers for Dublin:

P Andrews (1-4); D Rock (0-7, 4 frees); D Connolly (1-0, pen); P Mannion, T Brady, C Costello (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kerry:

BJ Keane (0-4, frees); D O’Sullivan (0-3); D Moran (0-2, 1 free); S O’Brien, J Buckley, D Walsh, T Walsh, B O’Sullivan (0-1 each).

DUBLIN:

S Cluxton; J Cooper, M Fitzsimons, David Byrne (Naomh Olaf); Davy Byrne (Ballymun Kickhams), C O’Sullivan, J Small; J McCarthy, D Bastick; T Brady, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; P Mannion, D Rock, P Andrews.

Subs for Dublin:

J McCaffrey for Davey Byrne (41); E Ó Conghaile for D Bastick (49); C Costello for T Brady (53); C Reddin for C Kilkenny (57); D Daly for C O’Sullivan (61); C O’Callaghan for P Mannionn (67).

KERRY:

B Kealy; S Enright, M Griffin, B Ó Beaglaoich; P Murphy, F Fitzgerald, K Young; D Moran, T Walsh; P O’Connor, J Buckley, D Walsh; S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, BJ Keane.

Subs for Kerry:

P Kilkenny for M Griffin (41); J Lyne for Walsh (black, 46); B O’Sullivan for J Buckley, P O’Connor for F Fitzgerald (both 53); G O’Grady for BJ Keane (57); C Cox for T Walsh (65). Black card: S Enright (68, no replacement).

Referee:

E Kinsella (Laois).


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