From early on yesterday, it was pleasing on the eye to see Dublin and Kerry going with man-on-man match-ups.
Some might say it was a defensive game but the way players were going back to take up their markers was quite organic.
Marc Ó Sé had Bernard Brogan on the back foot, bringing him into the middle third for the first 15 to 20 minutes, and Stephen O’Brien was having a lot of success in the opening stages. It was interesting to see Liam Hassett running on to order Colm Cooper to stay closer to the Dublin goal. If he was going to do damage, it was going to happen there.
Cooper looked bang up for this but he had no support cast whatsoever. I have backed the experiment with Paul Murphy at centre-forward but Kerry need more creativity in that role. Bryan Sheehan was out of the game at times and I don’t know if he has the legs for the middle. He doesn’t have the height either but if there’s a position for him, it’s No.11. He likely benefited from Johnny Buckley being injured because Buckley hasn’t done much wrong, from what I’ve seen.
Kerry’s balance wasn’t right until the last five minutes of the first half when they were getting a bit of success around full-forward. But their second-half performance was the second most inept 35-plus minutes of football I have witnessed from a Kerry team in a long time, inferior only to what they served up in last year’s All-Ireland final.
When we think of all the good things about Kerry, we revert back to the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, when they played brilliant football. Cooper was pulling the strings and there was intricacy to their play. Yesterday their only tactic was to lump the ball into the edge of the square for Kieran Donaghy.
Now Donaghy is going to win his fair share but he needs help from his team-mates. He didn’t get any from Eddie Kinsella anyway. Just because he is bigger than everyone else, there was a reluctance to award him frees. He definitely should have been given one penalty and it’s something referees will have to look at going into the championship. Having said that, other teams will study it and believe they can get on top of him and Kerry with foul play without being punished.
Dublin were extremely sloppy, culpable of silly things you wouldn’t usually associate with them — and yet they won by 11 points. The players they bring off the bench aren’t just fresh legs; they improve the team. No other team has had that or has it and they’ve another cohort of players behind them. The biggest thing now in Jim Gavin’s armoury is what Brian Cody had when Kilkenny were in their pomp — the A versus B training games. Dublin aren’t now going to be tested until the end of August. Even then, will Kerry at that stage put them to the pins of their collars? They’ve a lot of improving to do.
The Aidan O’Mahony sending off had no bearing on the game. He was completely anonymous and had been done for five kick-outs in the first half. Dublin’s standards were higher. Stephen Cluxton ran 60 yards to give out to Philly McMahon for neglecting his defensive duties and doing his own thing going forward. Mick Deegan then ran on to give out to him. A minute later, he was off. Diarmuid Connolly did his own thing, floated around and was taken off.
Shortly after coming on, Cormac Costello soloed for about 50 yards before being turned over. Deegan was quickly onto the pitch to have a word with him. The next time he got the ball, he shifted it twice and was at the end of the move to stick the ball over the bar.
Brogan is another who had his heels cooled by Gavin in previous league games but here, he was excellent. He’s doing the right things all of the time. Apart from his four points, he set up Eric Lowndes for his goal. Five years ago, you might have argued it was all about Bernard for him but now it’s all about the team.
While others were messing up, Cian O’Sullivan’s calmness spokes volumes. He’s made that centre-back/sweeper position his own these last couple of years and commands it so well. You can only truly appreciate his influence in person.
Finally, I officially want to put on record that I have absolutely no idea what constitutes a black card nowadays. After seeing Cavan’s Liam Buchanan black-carded for little or nothing in the first game, Darran O’Sullivan was allowed to drag his man down. There’s no consistency.
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