By the 58th minute, the minds of the Dublin faithful had wandered elsewhere. Passes were cheered as their team picked at the bones of the Kerry carcass.
There might not have been much meat on it to begin with but it’s what was put in front of the All-Ireland champions and feasted they did.
In the space of 12 early second-half minutes, Kerry went from contenders to also rans, their three-point deficit quadrupled.
Losing Seán O’Shea and Paul Geaney to injuries at half-time sure dulled their attacking senses but then the first 11 minutes of their 29-minute barren spell had occurred when they were on the field.
The 24,026 in attendance in Croke Park knew the game was up but in that 58th minute the minds of the Dublin management remained sharp.
Paddy Small had made way as a blood substitute for Ciaran Reddin in the 52nd minute only for Small to return as a permanent replacement for Dean Rock six minutes later. It would allow Dublin to make seven substitutes, triggering the blood sub loophole.
It illustrated just how switched on Dublin are even when they are cruising but also Jim Gavin’s determination to give as many as possible of his phalanx game-time.
Yesterday, five of their seven All-Stars were missing as were the likes of Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon and Eoghan O’Gara. Impressive in one way, petrifying in another.
The 12-point margin was more than fair on Kerry who may have failed to take two gilt-edged shots at goal in the first half but saw Dublin convert just two of six.
All spring, they have been depicted as boys learning their trade and here they weren’t so much schooled as scolded for their first-half insolence when they dared to challenge the men of Dublin.
In that period, you could have mistaken them for equals. How David Clifford took his opening point against Cian O’Sullivan might have been a marker for the team. In a way, it turned out to be one for him personally but they couldn’t sustain that temerity.
Sure, there could have been goals for Paul Geaney, hitting the post after dummying Stephen Cluxton in the 17th minute, and Seán O’Shea soon after when he beat a defender and Cluxton only to fire wide.
Dublin’s second goal despite the efforts of Kerry goalkeeper Shane Murphy
At times, the fare was spiky and the visitors were tangoing. Kerry were also three points up by the ninth minute but it turned out to be in keeping with the slow starts Dublin have had so far this year.
What was also consistent with previous games was Kerry’s kick-out struggles.
Dublin needed no invitation to pounce on them but if one moment encapsulated the game it was when Jonny Cooper, a colossus throughout, read Clifford’s quick free, intercepted it to start a chain reaction, which ended with Brian Fenton feeding Shane Carthy who squared a ball for Niall Scully to find the net.
Kerry thought they were being clever but Dublin were smarter.
That 20th-minute goal put Dublin ahead and it was an advantage they never relinquished. Their 1-8 to 0-8 lead grew significantly when Ciarán Kilkenny had a second chance to find the net after Shane Murphy parried his palmed effort.
It was a score that illustrated just how much the Kerry defence were at sea at that stage.
“I think early in the second half Dublin really got after us,” said Éamonn Fitzmaurice.
“We made a couple of costly errors that were really punished and they got life and energy and they just kept going better and better. I think Sean O’Shea and Paul Geaney, certainly losing them at half-time was a factor. We lost a bit of impetus and direction up front but look we just have to learn from it. We just have to move on and it was a pretty chastening experience for all of us.”
Dublin’s 1-9 second-half tally, which could have been 4-9 but for Ciaran Reddin hitting the post, Dean Rock dinking a cheeky shot wide and Shane Murphy foiling Brian Howard, was eight points better than the win over Mayo, which was almost as comfortable as this win.
Jim Gavin was reasonably pleased.
“Coming up to half-time, we tightened up on our passing, which was a little bit loose in the first half and we consider ourselves a catch-and-kick football team and we practice those fundamentals in our training sessions and that was disappointing in the first half. We tightened up in the second half and we got the performance as a result.”
Allianz Football League Division 1
Scorers for Dublin:
C. Kilkenny (1-3); N. Scully (1-1); D. Rock (0-4, 3 frees); P. Andrews (0-3); C. Basquel (0-2); J. Cooper, P. Small, C. Costello, P. McMahon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerry:
D. Clifford (0-4, 2 frees); K. McCarthy, M. Burns (0-2 each); P. Geaney, S. O’Shea, M. Geaney (0-1 each).
S. Cluxton (c); D. Byrne, C. O’Sullivan, J. Cooper; S. Carthy, J. Small, E. Lowndes; B. Fenton, M.D. Macauley; N. Scully, C. Basquel, B. Howard; D. Rock, C. Kilkenny, P. Andrews.
Subs for Dublin:
P. Small for S. Carthy (32); P. McMahon for J. Small (black, h-t); C. Reddin for P. Small (blood, 52); P. Small for D. Rock (58); A. McGowan for C. O’Sullivan (inj 64); C. Costello for C. Kilkenny, E. Ó Conghaile for B. Fenton (both 68).
S. Murphy (c); R. Shanahan, P. Murphy, J. Foley; P. Crowley, S. Enright, B. Ó Beaglaoich; J. Barry, B. O’Sullivan; M. Burns, S. O’Shea, A. Spillane; D. Clifford, P. Geaney, K. McCarthy.
Subs for Kerry:
É Ó Conchuir for B. O’Sullivan (black, 34); M. Geaney for S. O’Shea, B.J. Keane for P. Geaney (both h-t, inj); F. Fitzgerald for K. McCarthy (48); D. Moran for A. Spillane (50); D. Casey for M. Burns (64).
C. Branagan (Down).
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