SELDOM has there been such unanimity among Monday opinions as the conclusions drawn from Dublin’s dismissal of Kerry in Sunday’s Allianz Football League final at Croke Park.
A throwback, it would seem to the spring of 2014, when Dublin were first and the rest apparently nowhere.
If Sunday’s 11-point winning margin was an exaggerated reflection of Dublin’s superiority, it was an undoubted superiority.
Is there anyone else out there ready and able to have a pop at Dublin’s 22-match unbeaten run?
Jim Gavin’s side reside on an elevated plateau at the moment. But how steep is the climb for the rest? And if Kerry are the best of the chasing pack, then the concerns football had-post 2013 - that the Dubs were set for a spell of monotonous domination - was really only in fact delayed for a couple of seasons. Right?
Wrong. Every team has its achilles heel. Finding and exploiting it is the key...
A) If you match Dublin for fitness…?
We copped Enda McNulty outside Croke Park on Sunday, four days after watching him motivate business leaders in Cork. Enda would sell belts on a beach, but he’s good and he makes you believe. He waves the heel of his shoe at you and says it got worn off by miles and miles of hard work. The Jim McGuinness model. We Can Do This.
And Donegal did it in the 2014 semi-final. Matching Dublin’s boundless engines toe-to-toe is no easy gig, not least for a team like Kerry with ageing legs in key positions. So any other driven squad able to duck and weave, box clever against the All-Ireland champions?
Donie Buckley will have Mayo in good nick again, and they’ve proved already they can match Dublin for GPS stats, if not for attacking prowess. Donegal and Tyrone won’t be short of attitude and intent either if they struck up against The Mean Machine.
The thing is the only time they could find this Dublin group undercooked will be for the All-Ireland semi-final - which they will arrive at post a Leinster sleepwalk and a spanking of some qualifier in the quarter-final. If Kerry win Munster and negotiate a last-eight tie, they’ll face the Leinster champions in the semi-final. Maybe, just maybe...
B) Every team has a point of weakness, right?
Everyone woke up Monday thinking Kerry had gotten old overnight. They haven’t. It’s just Dublin can make anyone look weary. They’re relentless. They did to Kerry what Kerry do to others. It’s now 6-1 to Jim Gavin over Eamonn Fitzmaurice and whatever formation you seem to throw at the Dublin management, they seem to have an answer.
Except that full-back line can be got at. Not via the aerial route, but with the movement and guile of say, a Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien, James O’Donoghue and Colm Cooper. That’s where Kerry will start their strategy. From front to back.
The next thing is getting the ball in that far without resorting to sky-bombing Kieran Donaghy. Can they pin Cian O’Sullivan, James McCarthy (what an athlete), et al back? Will Johnny Buckley, Donnchadh Walsh and Stephen O’Brien prevent Dublin’s launchpad from venturing beyond midfield?
It’s essentially 15 v 15 and high risk but Kerry may be one of the few with the offensive arsenal to do it.
C) Could someone still suffocate the life out of Dublin?
We’ve been here. Seven years ago, when Donegal almost bored the world into submission and we thought football was heading for the wooden overcoat. And again in 2014, when they blindsided the Dubs on the counter-offensive in another semi-final.
Shape is as important as personnel nowadays, and the likes of Mayo might be better positioned than Kerry to limit Brogan, Connolly, Flynn etc on the scoreboard.
Kerry are struggling to come up with alternatives to veterans like Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé. No-one can question Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s gut for making the tough call. His problem? Defensive alternatives are thin on the ground. Killian Young will start come the summer but Legion pair Podge O’Connor and Jonathan Lyne have a way to go.
Hence the temptation to return Paul Murphy to his defensive station. But Croke Park’s a big pitch. And the main pretenders to Dublin’s crown may have to crowd their own halves with ten men, and leave two-plus-two to forage beyond midfield. But is there any county good enough man-to-man to stop the Blue Tide.
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