National League

Dublin edge Kerry in Croke Park

March 1st, 2011
by Weeshie Fogarty

As this latest thrilling Kerry/Dublin affair entered stoppage time last Saturday under the glare of the Croke Park lights Dublin's Bernard Brogan one of the best forwards in the game secured possession well out on the wing under the Cusack stand. His marker the brilliant Mark o Se who had done a superb job on his opponent all evening was right down on Brogans boot. A score looked out of the question but showing beautiful balance, lighting fast reflexes and quick feet Brogan got his kick in and split the posts for what proved to be the winning score. It was a flash of brilliance particularly (and this is a tribute to both men) as the Dub was shadowed by o Se a man in magnificent form so early in the year.  Brian Sheehan who had a excellent game had an opportunity to level matters with a late late free from nearly fifty meters out but his effort just tailed off and drifted wide. Indeed if the referee had being doing his job as required by law the free should have been brought fordward for dissent by Eoghan o Gara. And let me add if it was a Paul Galvin dissent affair we would hear plenty about it on the box. 

While defeat will not rest lightly on the shoulders of Jack o Connor, Ger o Keeffe and Diarmuid Murphy, winning is their objective in every match nevertheless they will be happy with the way the team fought back in both halves when it appeared the fitter home side would stroll to victory. Last week I remarked here I expected Dublin's early season fitness would help them win the points. I believe this was the deciding factor and the one and only big advantage the winners had over Kerry.  The three Dublin goals came from lighting fast moves, penetrating runs and quick reactions from Dublin forwards. The Kerry defenders were slow to tackle and slow to react a sure sign, lack of sharpness. This will be easily rectified.

Kerry's new captain Colm Cooper was in scintillating form. The way he eased away from his marker and "slipped" over those five points from play was sheer class. Ninety nine times out of a hundred he would have goaled when he was one and one with Dublin's excellent goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.  It was a defining save and let's not forgets also that Darren o Sullivan once again outstanding kicked two wides from very scoreable positions also in that second half. Three crucial misses.  This then brings me back to what I have emphasized in relation to both sides early season fitness and should I say lack of fitness. League and championship. August 3rd 2009, Kerry 1-24, Dublin 1-7. Remember Gooch's goal that day and Darren's three flying points, sharpness, fitness, freshness. No missing as we saw last Saturday. Its early days yet.

Pat Gilroy had his defense well coached as regards denying Kieran Donaghy any easy possession. As the high balls floated in particularly in the first half a defender and this is a simple tactic for him, would just break the ball away from the Stacks man, a colleague was always available to snap up the break and any high fielding was easily curtailed. With Paul Galvin and Declan o Sullivan back for the championship Kerry have some of the best ball winners in the game and we will see a more even distribution of the ball bringing all attackers more into play. Indeed I often wonder if Colm Cooper was singled out as the target man what would be the result.  Kerrys best fordward he must be brought even more into the game and in the second half last week we saw him at his very best as he was fed with some lovely chest high passes.

Donnacha Walsh had a superb outing and his penetrating runs into the heart of the Dublin defense was one of the high lights of the evening. A great work rate with endless stamina and never say die attitude it's easy to see why Jack and the selectors pencil him first in for all the big games. Centre field continues to improve. Brian Moran had one of his best games and all he needs now is consistency in his displays while Seamus Scanlon as I constantly state here needs full games as often as possible. He is one of those men who literally play themselves into full match fitness. In an interview last week for Radio Kerrys Terrace Talk Programme Jack o Connor hinted that in his mind he would consider ten positions nailed down for the championship, the other selectors might not agree on this of course. However this would be about my own thinking on the matter.

Galway are up next in Tralee. A must win game to ease away from the bottom of the table. The searching, experimenting and "trying out" of players continues apace. Do the older players still have the legs for speed? are then younger players on the panel good enough to make the grade? and will centerfield be nailed down and copper fastened for the summer?  These are all questions still be to answered but going on the Dublin game things are looking good. The players still have an unbelievable appetite for winning (this is half the battle) and in my estimation there was a big gulf in style, class and movement between the sides last Saturday and Kerry certainly looked the better side in this regard. Early days, a long road and a lot to learn yet.

Fogra; I watched the game on Setanta TV with a group of die hard football men and the general consensus of opinion was that the TV was a good second, not a great second in relation to being present at the game. There is a huge difference between the box and being at the game in person. There is for and against. However for me the against far outweighs the for. One huge TV advantage is that you see scores and debatable incidents re-played a number of times. In my position as Radio Kerry analysist it's a split second view of a score, penalty etc. No re-runs. It's all in the minds eye.  Referees debatable decisions are also shown up close and personal. However the one ingredient I would miss most of all is the atmosphere especially that of Croke Park when it's a Kerry/Dublin affair. It's also impossible to see what's happening off the ball as regards players running into open spaces and making themselves available.  Judging distance is another aspect that falls short to TV viewers and also I always make a point at games of studying/ watching side line mentors as they contemplate making changes or race up and down the line signaling various orders to their men. So in my opinion TV is a good second, not a great second and of course brilliant for those who for various reasons are unable to attend any intercounty match.

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