National League

Dublin's First Victory in Kerry since 1982

February 9th, 2010
by Weeshie Fogarty

The only major point of importance really regarding Kerry's loss to Dublin last Sunday was the fact that it was the visitor's first win over the Kingdom on home soil since their last league victory in 1982.  While it's never pleasant to lose to any opposition most followers would have fancied Dublin, as I did myself due to the fact that not alone were Kerry missing so many outstanding footballers (in difference to just regulars') but the fact that Dublin had been training twice a day in the run up to the game. The difference in preparation was blatantly obvious as the match unfolded. Dublin were sharper, faster to the breaks and pounced time and time again on sloppy Kerry passing. A number of Dublin scores came from misdirected hand and foot passes and this of course is par for the course by a side that has little or no ball work done in training. The winners got seven different men on the score board while Kerry had just three players raising flags.  And talking about training, we have all been told about the GAA ban on winter collective training for the months of December and January and Kerry selector Ger o Keeffe hopped a lovely ball in the post match interview when he said. "Dublin were far fitter, I'd say they had probably more work done that the President of the GAA might have thought since January". So it's up to yourself to read what's there between the lines.

I often think to myself that as one moves on in years that you become more critical and cynical in relation to the state of sporting matters in comparison to our younger days. This applies more to Gaelic football than most other games and in latter years with the interduction of the Northern swarming tactics, the constant video analysis prior to games and the interduction of specialized coaching for all sections of the team it is my belief that many of the games, not all, have been dragged down to a state to which we scarcely recognize. Let me say straight away that we have also witnessed some magnificent spectacles in recent years; none more so than the scintillating Kerry/Galway championship in Croke Park that unforgettable day  when the rains came down in torrents and the flood lights were switched on. Then we had Kerry's superb display against Dublin in last year's championship, a display that warmed the cockles of the heart.  All that is great and good in Kerry football was on show that memorable day.

Sadly it was all the direct opposite last Sunday as Pat Gilroy send out his men in blue to do one thing. And I do lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Dublin management.  Stop the Kerry players from playing, that appeared to be the main point of the day. From the throw in the tactics of the visitors were obvious and for me hugely disappointing. They left one forward, Kevin McMenamon all on his own in front of the Kerry goal; Padraig Reidy had the job of marking this very talented player.  At times McMenamon did have one more player in support while the remaining thirteen Dublin men continuously fell behind the ball and swarmed and crowded, hunted and cornered a Kerryman every time he got possession.  Dublin deservedly led at the short whistle 1-6 to 0-6, their goal coming from a very clever knock down by Michael McAuley into the path of Paul Flynn who careered through the open Kerry defense. The excellent Ger Reidy had no chance as the Fingalians man blasted low to the net. He added a point shortly after this and these two scores in the 32nd and 35th minutes eventually proved to be the winning of the game for Dublin.

Dublin's mid fielder in dispute with his club, Eamon Fennell had been hugely influential in that first half running away from his opponents to kick two excellent points. However I must say that looking down on the vast expanse of Fitzgerald Stadium all through the second half and seeing just one Dublin forward inside the Kerry half for most of the thirty five minutes was a sickening sight. With fourteen Dublin men defending and Kerry coming forward in great numbers as they attempted to win the points we had swarming and crowding to an extent that I have rarely seen. Add in the slow cumbersome fisted pass and you had all that is not great in our game. While the new rules being tried out in the league did not have any great impact in the result last Sunday the authorities might do much better to examine the number of fisted passes allowed before the ball is kicked and endeavor to brink back more kicking to the game. I refereed a game back in the early eighties between Offaly and Kerry. A new rule was tried out. A player was allowed just two solo and one hop then he had to get rid of the ball. It was a complete success in my opinion and Mick o Dwyer Kerry manager at the time constantly refers to that experiment when ever we met and discus football. However like many things that might improve the game it was quickly discarded by Croke Park authorities.

And yet despite everything this was a game I feel Kerry should have won. They dominated the second half but the fourteen man "wall" of Dublin players did its ugly job. Declan o Sullivan will wonder how he failed to goal from point blank range. Paul Galvin's superb left footed effort just whizzed over the cross bar with Cluxton looking on helplessly and the impressive James o Donoghue missed a very scoreable free. Kieran Donaghy had a frustrating afternoon. Two men and at times three marking him constantly. Paul Galvin was outstanding as was Declan o Sullivan until his injury. Too early to pass any fair judgment on any of the new comers on trial Next Saturday away to Cork will answer a few more questions for the selectors. While Kerry did have a few competitive games in the McGrath Cup it was chalk and cheese stuff in comparison to last Sunday and until the squad is re- grouped and has at least two months solid training under their belts we will not know just how hungry they are for further battles.  There was a bit of confusion in the second half when Kieran Donaghy was in the square to punch a point from a side line kick which was disallowed. Most thought the white flag should be raised under the new rule which permits a player in the square before the ball. However the rule is quite clear on this and states that a score in these circumstances from a side line kick or a free kick must be disallowed.

Fogra: Our sympathies to Kerry manager Jack o Connor and all the family on the death of their father Michael. It goes without saying that his footballing son's achievements were a sense of tremendous pride to him. In his superb book "Keys to the Kingdom" Jack writes beautifully and lovingly of his father and especially his memories as a youngster growing up in his shadow.  "When my father got to the age of thirteen he was given, as he says himself, the present of a scythe and was put in the fields to start his slavery. The family survived, selling butter and eggs in Caherceiveen, chasing sheep, milking a few cows and making butter. A living. The good days were in the summer, saving hay in the sun and footing turf, a big slew of us up there in the bog and my mother arriving up with big bottles of tea wrapped inside socks to keep them warm".

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