National League

Dublin defeat Kerry under lights in Croke Park

February 4th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

Another year on the never ending GAA merry-go-round of league and championship began under the harsh glare of the Croke Park lights last Saturday. A cold, wet February night, an amber weather warning issued for the weekend around the country and a young mainly inexperienced Kerry team taking on Dublin, reigning Leinster, All Ireland and National League champions. Tomas O Se retired, Eoin Brosnan retired and then as the final whistle sounded the news filtered through to us high up on the press box of the Hogan Stand that the charismatic Paul Galvin had decided to hang up his inter county boots.  We will return and pay more tribute to this extraordinary Gaelic Footballer and person in more fitting detail at a later date when space permits. Suffice to say for now that we will never see his likes again. Every Kerry footballer I have been privileged to have seen and spoken to over the past fifty years or so are unique and distinct in their own special way both on and off the field of play. That is just one of the secrets of Kerry football and the reasons it is different in all aspects of its make up as distinct to all other counties.

Paul Galvin was different in his own special, individual, way, no one can deny this. His greatness on the field of play and his contribution to club and county at both football and hurling is a story for another time. However in my dealing with Paul in relation to my media work I always found him highly courteous, accommodating, pleasant, and charming but above all fascinating in relation to his views on football and life in general. A deep thinker, when he spoke I was always conscious of the fact that his every word was deeply measured and never the throw away remark. One particular interview I did with him remains etched in the memory. The year was 2007, Kerry had just defeated Cork in a dramatic All Ireland  final in Croke Park. I had gained access to the victorious dressing room, Paul was seated, towel around his waist, sweating like a trooper following yet another superb display, preparing to shower. I sat beside him microphone in hand, he was in deep contemplative mood. My question was simply, "what did this victory over the old enemy mean", he looked at me with that deep direct penetrative gaze. His answer was short and to the point, "the whole history of Kerry football was at stake today Weeshie, defeat was not an option, to return to Kerry as a loser was unthinkable".

Paul Galvin always put his heart, mind, body and soul on the line for his beloved county. He was different; he is the only Kerry footballer who through his great love of fashion and music is constantly discussed in my home by my wife and daughters.  There is only one Paul Galvin, we will never see his likes again, we wait with great anticipation for "the book", "Paul Galvin, Fame, Fashion and Football"?

Last Saturdays clash with Dublin was a game Kerry could have won, the home side were down to fourteen men with nineteen minutes to go and the two points were there for the taking but failure by Kerry to register even one score during this period was once again a stark reminder that the legendary Kingdom winning finishing burst has been the sides Achilles heel over the last few years. As so often happens when a team is down to fourteen men his team mates double their efforts and this is what occurred here. However Eamon Fitzmaurice and his side line generals will feel well satisfied with the boys display and there is an awful lot to build on in complete difference to last year's league beginning.

Well rightly or wrongly I have pointed out here on numerous occasions that the strength of the Dublin substitute's bench is at the moment far superior to that of Kerry. We saw it in that epic semi-final last year and we saw it again last Saturday. When push came to shove last week the Dubs introduced names that decided the issue. Players such as Michael Darragh Macaulay, Jack McCaffery, Paul Mannion and Davy Byrne men who were bulked up, physically strong and highly experienced, in difference to some of our young men who really are still learning the ropes at the moment. The trick now of course is to build on this new found confidence and really we will not have a clear idea of the strength or weaknesses of many of the Kerry lads until well into the league. I watched the Kildare/ Mayo game on the box Sunday, it was a cracker, and against these two teams alone, both away will test the Kerry boys to the proverbial limit. David Moran needs lots of game time to bring himself to match fitness, Paul Murphy will be happy with his debut, he met a difficult opponent in Cormac Costello but lots of work will bring the Rathmore lad on a ton. Peter Crowley continues to grow in stature as does Brian McGuire and James o Donoghue will feel he should have added another goal to his name following his superb strike when he beat Cluxton from a difficult angle. I need more convening that Jonathan Lyne will settle in to what is for him an unaccustomed wing forward position. One thing was very obvious in Croke Park is the fact that as these newer players in the forward line are been introduced they need someone, a ball winner with height and strength in around the square.

Too often especially when legs were tiring we saw the ball being cleared time and again by the Dublin defenders, Brian Sheehan, Declan o Sullivan or David Moran in around here would surly strengthen the cause in this respect. Eamon Fitz and his selectors deserve great credit for fielding these young Kerry starlets, its early days, it's a work in progress; we will follow their development with great interest.  Kerry are in transition, its time for patience and support, I feel its going to be a long road. Finally the black card is I fear developing the game into a wider version of seven-a-side football. I don't know what the tackle count was in Croke Park but I felt players were afraid to tackle. They are afraid to tackle because of the uncertainty. So if you want a game full of running with no tackling and, you know, tackling is one of the best skills of the game then sadly that is what you are going to get.

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