How Dublin got under Kerry’s skin in recent years

Last September, Kerry suffered the ignominy of losing to Dublin for an unprecedented third consecutive time in Championship. Has it got to a stage where they have complexes about their age-old rivals? John Fogarty assesses the factors.

Under Kerry’s skin

Over the last 11 days, four Kerry players have spoken to the media. All have obviously been asked about the Indian sign Dublin appear to have over Kerry. First up was David Moran who played the diplomatic card and doubted they were Kerry’s bogey team. Marc Ó Sé was more forthcoming although he suggested rivalries tend to go in cycles. Bryan Sheehan and Kieran Donaghy were more animated in their responses.

Sheehan said: “Were we labelled their bogey team when they hadn’t beaten us for 34 years? It is three games. We threw away the 2011 All-Ireland. We were the better team. 2013 came down to a breaking ball, which they won. 2015 they were hungrier than us.”

Donaghy said: “Am I concerned about it? It is something I would have preferred hadn’t happened, that they won three in a row. But does it concern me? No, it doesn’t.”

It seems like it does. Some supporters may sigh, “At last.”

Is Dublin’s well deeper?

After last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, just five players, all defenders including goalkeeper Brendan Kealy, had started all five of Kerry’s five championship games. That number dropped to four when Marc Ó Sé was kept in reserve because of injury and sickness setbacks before the final. The shared load showed a remarkable ethos of collective responsibility, equality and ruthlessness or, as Eamonn Fitzmaurice puts it, consistency. Yet if there was one team who finished the game closest to their strongest suit on September 20 last it was Dublin.

How Dublin got under Kerry’s skin in recent years

Mercy, mercy me

It would be too easy and lazy to associate RTÉ’s capturing of the frank discussions on the Kerry sideline last September with the result and performance of those on the other side of the whitewash. The narrative was a striking one, nevertheless, as Kerry struggled to fight back. Fitzmaurice is usually clinical in making changes but nobody has shown less mercy during games than Jim Gavin. Maybe he can afford to more than his counterparts but the withdrawal of Dean Rock at half-time was his sixth interval substitution of the championship. Dublin is a more unforgiving set-up than Kerry’s.

Kevin McManamon

The man who struck a dart in the heart of Kerry in 2011 and ’13 didn’t score in last year’s final but he remained a nuisance, forcing Aidan O’Mahony into pulling him down and earning a black card. Just as Jack Sherwood was brought on to shadow him in 2013, it was anticipated Kerry would introduce a player to mark McManamon upon his introduction but he was brought on at half-time, earlier than expected.

Size matters

At the Allianz League launch last Monday, Donaghy drew laughs from the gathering when asked about Dublin finding a replacement for Rory O’Carroll. “They’ve a million people up in Dublin – I’m sure they’ll find a full-back,” he said. His tone was tongue-in-cheek but there was a grain of truth in it. Kerry’s tradition may ensure their well won’t run dry any time soon yet it’s been observed regularly in the county that Dublin are realising their demographic strength.

Triple dip recession

Sheehan’s reading of the three defeats to Dublin above is a pretty accurate summation but it is also depressing from a Kerry perspective. Chronologically, the margins read one, seven and three points but Kerry’s performances have been progressively worse. For a proud county, they should consider it says more about them than their opponents. Looking at that scale, Dublin’s dominance doesn’t seem to have hurt them enough.

No more Dublin faux pas

Their commercial activities may have skyrocketed since the Noughties but the vast majority of public appearances are now for the collective, the money from which goes into a kitty. Lesser known players are visible as much as the marquee ones. It wasn’t always that way. Before they steamrolled Dublin in 2009, Kerry players had gleaned motivation from a Bryan Cullen newspaper interview. The chances of a Dublin player handing an edge to the opposition are few and far between now. Kerry remain cute but Dublin have become cute.

Oh captain, my captain

Those close to the Dublin camp reckon Gavin’s decision to pick Stephen Cluxton as captain in 2013 was ingenious. Possibly the most self-deprecating player on the team (even if his on-field demeanour at times wouldn’t suggest it), he would have suffered in silence after defeats but as skipper he had to come out of his shell. His attention to detail in training and performances made him a leader by example. One wonders who Fitzmaurice would choose if he were empowered to pick his own captain. A man who found a feast in a supposed fallow time for Kerry, he has surely earned that right.

How Dublin got under Kerry’s skin in recent years

A bigger bogey than Tyrone

For all the bluster about Tyrone being the team of the 2000s, Kerry were always safe in the knowledge that they ended the decade with one more All-Ireland and put a pair of their titles back-to-back. Tyrone may have been more clinical but they were never as consistent as Kerry. There is no succour in finding themselves two honours shy of Dublin with three seasons remaining in the 2010s.

From the followed to followers

Off the field, Kerry have taken a leaf out of Dublin’s book in how they conduct their media affairs. Outside of commercial activities, a pre-match press briefing and immediately following a game, players are generally out of bounds.

It’s a practice that was initiated by Pat Gilroy, tightened by Gavin and replicated by Fitzmaurice. Restriction on access is excessive but if it’s something that can be controlled then it will be controlled.


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