National League

No place to hide as Dubs hand out a hiding

February 2nd, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

Croke Park can be a very cruel and unwelcoming place for footballers when things go badly wrong be it in the high summer of championship or under the bright floodlights of a cold hard January night in a league game. There is simply no place to hide. And that's exactly the way it was last Saturday night for the footballers of Kerry when they were literally played off the field by Dublin in this first round national league game of the year.  But first of all let's put things in proper perspective as we always do in Kerry when defeat is our lot in league games.

Yes it is only January, yes it is only the league and this latest defeat against the Dubs will have little or no bearing on events if the sides meet later in the year in the championship. However whatever way you dress it up Dublin have and continue to open up a gap in many areas of the game in relation to their meetings with Kerry in recent years. The cold facts of the argument are, out of the last ten meetings between the counties including league and championship the men in blue have won on eight occasions. 

With the exception of ten minutes before half time last Saturday Dublin were in my opinion literally streets ahead of Kerry and the difference in the speed of their players in all areas of the field in relation to Kerry was at times frightening. Their conditioning, tactical awareness and approach seems to be at a far higher level than Kerry and their record in this competition, they are going for four-in-a-row underpins this consistency in recent years.

It's a hard stark undisputable fact that Dublin should have won this latest game by at least three more goals and we should reminder ourselves that just like the All-Ireland final last year they failed to put away numerous well worked scoring chances when the occasion arises. In fact the one and only majour fault in this present Dublin team in my view is that very same failing, missing gilt edged scoring chances. The wonder of the occasion was the fact that the sides went in level 0-7 each at half time as the winners had continuously opened up the Kerry defence time and again and the Kerry tactic of playing just six defenders on six forwards without a sweeper covering back was exactly what the doctor ordered the mobile Dublin forwards loved every minute of it.

Tommy Walsh had a very good game for Kerry and when he moved in full forward and the long high ball was delivered it caused ripples of panic in the home defence. In fact any goal treat from Kerry came as a result of this high ball tactic. Outside of this the losers never threatened Cluxton in the Dublin goal. On the other hand the Kerry net bore a charmed life, Brendan Kealy was superb saving two certain majors, David Moran saved a shot on the goal line when a goal looked a certainty, James McCarthy and John Small literally waltzed through the Kerry defence to smash shots against the wood work and on at least two more occasions Dean Rock and Diarmuid Connelly should have also found the net. Yes it was that bad.

Eamon Fitzmaurice was understandably bitterly disappointed at the display and so he should be. I firmly believed and I wrote here last week that a Kerry win was well within their capabilities and I must admit that never in my wildest dreams did I visualise such a totally dominant Dublin display. With Kerry deciding to play an open game we saw the winners at their best, moving the ball at great speed, always a man to support the player in possession, Cluxton finding a man most of the time with his kick outs, players especially the forwards always on the move running into the open spaces ahead of their markers and that the most telling aspect of their play, the delivery always chest high in front of the team mate.

And never once do I recall a high ball being kicked into the Kerry square. The Dublin full forward line, Andrews, Rock and Mannion scored 1-10 from play but it was the beautiful quality of the passes they received which gave them that crucial possession over their markers. Brian o Beaghlaoich can feel well proud of his senior debut at corner back; The Gaeltaght man met a really live wire in the returned Paul Mannion who will be a massive addition to Jim Gavin's squad. Brian stuck manfully to his task and as the game unfolded despite being exposed one on one continuously he continued to grow in stature. Darren o Sullivan was another to come away with his reputation enhanced and the Glenbeigh/ Glencar man was excellent from beginning to end kicking three lovely points.

So what is so different about Dublin and all other teams, they have won three national league titles and three All Irelands in the last six seasons. The height of consistency in any man's language.  They have developed a very deep and highly skilful squad of players, from last Saturdays squad six won All Ireland under 21 medals in 2014 but for me the main reason of their success is the fact that they have developed that style of play I have written about here. It's the Dublin style and any sub that is introduced before, or during the games will slip seamlessly into this style of fluid, fleet footed play. And remember they brought on six subs against Kerry last Saturday and the balance of the side barely changed. 

The league will continue to be a learning process for Kerry, next Sundays game against Roscommon will demand a far better battling display than what supporters witnessed last Saturday. There is no argument but Kerry certainly have the skill levels to match any team in the country including Dublin, however in other aspects of play as we witnessed in that Dublin game we are falling behind in other aspects. Dublin's approach to the year appears to be completely different to Kerry who seems to put all their eggs in the one proverbial basket, that is, peak for the championship. Dublin have once again laid down the marker, of course Kerry will respond but last Saturdays display did nothing to allay fears for me of  a Dublin league/championship double once again.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom