Tenacious Dublin forced Kerry into 36 costly turnovers

In the cold light of day, neither management team will be entirely happy with their team’s showing in Sunday’s final, but Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be perplexed by his side’s lack of performance on the big day.

Kick-out strategy was identified as crucial to this game but it suited Dublin more than Kerry that the teams cancelled each other out in this area. Kerry did upset Stephen Cluxton who managed a poor 63% success ratio from his kick-outs but Kerry only did marginally better with a 66% completion ratio. Some pundits pointed to Dublin’s midfield dominance but that is not accurate as Kerry slightly shaded this area. They won 11 breaks as opposed to Dublin’s nine and also won 52% of the kick-outs taken on the day.

However, Dublin almost broke even in an area where they were regarded as vulnerable.

Any analysis has to take into account the terrible weather conditions but the turnover ratios and misplaced pass totals were very high. There were 38 turnovers in the game with Kerry responsible for 21 of those. There were also 28 misplaced passes, with Kerry contributing 15. In total, Kerry gave away possession 36 times in the game and that stat will certainly disappoint the management and players.

Dublin, to their credit, forced Kerry into these errors with ferocious work-rate. As always, the tackle count provides a telling barometer.

Dublin went from a poor 57 tackles in their last championship outing to a superb 83 on Sunday while Kerry dipped from 82 in the semi-final to just 71 in the final. Even more impressive was the workrate of Dublin’s forwards. Just like Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final, Dublin’s forward line dictated the patterns of play with their incessant harrying. Their forwards made 35 tackles, conceding just 10 frees, while Kerry’s forwards made 19 tackles and conceded 13 frees.

In the first half alone, three of Kerry’s forwards managed just two tackles between them, Stephen O’Brien (1), Colm Cooper (1) and James O’Donoghue (0) compared starkly to their opposite numbers Paul Flynn (5), Paddy Andrews (4), Bernard Brogan (2).

Neither side will have been happy with their shooting. Dublin with 44% accuracy were marginally better than Kerry with 41%.

Many people were interested in the amount of time it took Stephen Cluxton to kick five frees in the game. The Dublin captain took five minutes and 19 seconds to hit his placed balls. When you consider that it normally takes an average of around 20 seconds to take a free, the game is losing nearly four minutes of play due to Cluxton’s interventions.

But few in Kerry will use this as an excuse as Dublin were clearly the better side on the day and thoroughly deserving All-Ireland champions.

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