Groundhog Day for Kerry in Croke Park

April 26th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

The one and only crumb of consolation for Kerry supporters and players leaving Croke Park last Sunday was the fact that , "it was only the league", and the championship is yet to come, and as every football supporter knows Kerry and their side line men are always and will be always be finally judged on their championship performance. However following this eleven point drubbing it's difficult to be very optimistic as the championship begins and Dublin, if form goes as expected will once again await Kerry in the All Ireland semi-final.

For me the biggest disappointment was the fact that there was a genuine expectancy by many Kerry followers, myself included, that Kerry in the middle of a great league run would really put it up to the Dubs this time around and if thing went well might even prevent them from winning these four league titles in a row, and whisper it, even victory might be attainable. The big question that was going to be answered was "how close have Kerry come to matching Dublin and is the gap that has appeared between the two counties in recent years being bridged"?

However it was Groundhog Day in Croke Park and events followed a similar pattern as we had witnessed in those championship defeats of 2011 and 2013 and the league defeat earlier this year... With sixty minutes gone Kerry trailed by just two points, then the roof literally fell in. Aidan o Mahoney was sent off, Brendan Kealy gifted Paul Flynn with that goal, Dublin began to introduce their subs and when this happens as we have seen in the past its game over.

Dublin literally went to town following the dismissal of the Rathmore defender and outscored Kerry, 2-5 to 0-2. Now to be fair an eleven point win undoubtedly flattered the victors but they were always going to win this latest battle and to put it bluntly they are a better team than Kerry. They finish all their games fitter and fresher, the subs they bring on are far more experienced than those Kerry introduce and as legs tire their superb style of pressure play simply wear down the opposition.

They are great team, and their record bears this out and under their quite, soft spoken manager Jim Gavin they have won two All Irelands, Three Leinster Championships, four National Leagues, are unbeaten in their last twenty two matches and have won six of the last seven meetings with Kerry. How can you argue with this? Now the scary thing is it must be said that Dublin were far from their best and I have never seen them kick away possession as much as they did, however when push came to shove and those crucial closing minutes ticked around on the clock their swift basketball style passing, man always running of the shoulder to take that pass and continuous movement of all players proved once again simply impossible for Kerry to handle. Non-stop movement of the ball and man, waves of attack, Cluxtons kick outs, the secret of their success. Kerry at sixes and sevens and even bossed physically, so much ground to be made up.

Marc o Se had a torrid afternoon on Bernard Brogan and a switch of markers here would have helped greatly, we lost the mid field battle, Dublin won every single one of their own kick outs bar just two, while Dublin won ten of Brendan Kealy,s deliveries. So what was the plan for this? Concede possession and just let Dublin build from the back, a win was impossibility from the word go under these circumstances.  Mark Griffin, Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, and at times Stephen o Brien were the pick of a struggling Kerry side and still they were the ones who were hauled ashore instead of the long veteran player's men as the pressure mounted.  Why I wonder?

Darren o Sullivan also continued his excellent form; Colm Cooper when in possession looked good but never got enough possession. And then once again we witnessed the hopeful and at times desperate tactic of the high ball into Kieran Donaghy proving a total failure and the Dublin defence were well prepared for this. Three men in blue on red alert, always waiting, surrounding Star, just prevent him by fair or foul methods of fielding cleanly and snap up the break. It was frustrating to watch and indeed I must add just as in the All Ireland final last year the big full forward was in my opinion blatantly denied a penalty when fouled from behind. 

The Dublin half back line James McCarthy, Cian o Sullivan and John Small, bombing forward all day, superb players, and o Sullivan playing that sweeping role to perfection, not a weak link. And their subs as before, McManamon, Costello and Lowndes kicked 1-3 between them, Dublin substitutions driving their team to victory, same old story.

Huge decisions for the management as they face championship time, from one to fifteen Dublin were much better that us, from one to fifteen we were not moving as a unit, tired legs, frustrated minds and bodies, unable to rise to the end challenge. Maybe it's time to start some of the younger players for the championship, Brendan o Sullivan, Padraig o Connor, Killian young must start, Johnny Buckley and hopefully Anthony Maher and James o Donoghue and the Geaney's will be back, Freshen things up, turn the thing around, keep the older player's in reserve and spring them when the experience and knowledge is needed and the proverbial ship has the be steadied. The end game when cool, experienced heads are needed, not young guns just full of running when a game is balanced on a knife edge.

Cork, Tyrone, Mayo and Dublin await down the line , but its Dublin, this superb team of athletes that will haunt Eamon Fitzmaurice and his men most of all, but everything is not lost, that is not the Kerry way of thinking. There will probably be one more opportunity to halt this Dublin team of talents. The task is massive, brave decisions will have to be taken; we saw what Donegal did to Dublin in 2012, literally shocked them. Kerry do not at the moment appear to have the know-how to beat Dublin, but they must learn from these past defeats how to stop  the men in blue. Starting fifteen, finishing fifteen, age profile here, Cluxtons kick outs, the Kieran Donaghy factor, inside near the goal our outside. Learn, correct, improve, eliminate. It can be done; it has been done in the past, 1955/1975, years when victory seemed no more than a pipe dream. And I am 100% sure the Kerry management will not be found wanting as the serious business of the season now begins.  

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