There will be celebrations a plenty around the nation’s capital tonight after Dublin triumphed to win their second All Ireland Senior football title in two years with a hard fought three point victory over Kerry at Croke Park. Hawkeye Sidekick reviews the game and pick out five key talking points from the game.
Talking Point 1: Kerry’s Downfall
The reigning champions came into this finale with a very low profile lead-up. The media focus predominantly focused on Dublin and their exhilarating victory over Mayo in the All Ireland Semi-Final replay. Kerry’s performance in the All Ireland Semi-Final over Tyrone looked like an ideal platform for the team to review and improve for the final but today it flat did not happen for the Kingdom. Dublin controlled the tempo of play for long spells and try as Kerry did to stem the kick out platform created by Stephen Cluxton, Dublin enjoyed outfield supremacy in the middle of the park. Fenton and Bastick formed an effective partnership for the boys in blue. Bastick’s focus on his defensive duties, to cut out Kerry attacks allowed Fenton to stride forward and kick some fine points. Fenton’s emergence for Dublin in midfield, an area where Dublin have sometimes struggled allowed the half-forward line to contribute more up the pitch. Fenton is a dead cert for young footballer of the year such was his performances in recent weeks. Kerry’s movement and quick passing were not as sharp as it should have being. Dublin and Kerry were cagey in the opening quarter of this final, putting their wing forwards line to prevent any goal threat from their opponent. However, Dublin then let loose in an impressive last ten minutes of the half with McCaffrey and McCarthy striding forward with ease. McCaffrey’s score just before half-time was sensational and gave the Dublin the confidence to finish the half in a positive manner with additional scores from Phil McMahon and Paddy Andrews who looked a threat all day. Dublin’s forward movement was in stark contrast to Kerry who were ponderless at times. O’Brien was forced to retreat to his half-back line thus reducing the Kingdom’s attacking threat. Donnacha Walsh’s influence waned as the game wore on. Cooper’s role as a sweeper flat out failed and allowed McMahon to become an attacking threat for Dublin. Kerry will rue their spell of pressure from minute seven to minute eighteen where they hit four bad wides in succession. Buckley’s wide was terrible considering that the Dr Crokes player did not have the confidence to take on his player so close goal. Lyne, Moran and Anthony Maher’s pot shots were more a plea for movement from their inside forward line. Geaney and O’Donoghue were the only genuine threat for Kerry in the forward line, two points each spoke volumes and Kerry management needed to make changes. Kerry’s back line did as much as they could to win this final but it was the sheer inability of Kerry to increase their tempo and passing accuracy led ultimately to their downfall. Kerry management will need to review their team selections. Star and Gooch as an inside forward line pairing came too late in the day. The decision to bring on Paul Galvin may have raised eyebrows, minimal championship time this season and it showed. Kerry’s ultra defensive tactics allowed Dublin to control the game tempo and it cost them the game. Kerry players and management must shoulder equal responsibility for this final loss.
Dublin – Deserving Winners
The Dublin football team have played the most attractive football this season. Yes, the Mayo game was their first realistic challenge but Dublin showed everyone how they have evolved. Committed to working hard without the ball and their ability to launch attacks with blistering pace from either the full forward line (Brogan, Andrews) or from deep (Connolly, Fenton, McCarthy and McCaffrey). Dublin’s win today was based on their dominance in the half back and midfield areas. Dublin’s half back line were nothing short of sensational. Kerry’s inability to pass through the Dublin half-back line was evident throughout. Cian O’Sullivan’s cameo today cannot be underestimated, provided the defensive cover for his full back, game managed superbly and allowed McCarthy and the all marauding McCaffrey to go forward when the opportunity presented. Fenton and Bastick’s performance in the midfield was the surprise of this final. They nullified the threat of David Moran in the aerial battle and while Maher was solid, his influence from an attacking standpoint was rather muted. Dublin’s half forward line were excellent today. Paul Flynn showed his class with two lovely scores, worked tirelessly throughout. Diarmuid Connolly was superb, his game management to predict Kerry attacking threats (moped up ball) and his passing and shooting were top notch on a horrendous day for football. Kilkenny may not have scored today but his overall work rate was excellent. No weak link in midfield and either forty provided the platform for Andrews and Brogan to excel. Their three points were key to this victory. Andrews’ point at half-time was a super score, fought off the attentions of Fitzgerald before dispatching over the bar. Dean Rock’s cameo was effective in terms of free taking and was replaced by super sub McManamon. Dublin deserved this triumph. Cluxton and full back line were excellent when Kerry decided to launch aerial bombs late on. McMahon nullified Gooch’s threat. O’Carroll and Cooper were dominant at various parts of the game and when man marker Fitzsimons came in, Dublin did not skip a beat. This was an excellent Dublin performance and three point victory was probably kind on Kerry given the supremacy that the Dublin team had throughout.
It was flat out horrendous, torrential rain plumping Croke Park throughout. It made the game into a lottery; passing had to be so precise, players ability to move in slippy conditions were key and it was something that Kerry were slow to adapt to. Gooch and Moran’s knee problems may have being a contributory factor in their ineffective performance, the slippery conditions required swift movement and both struggled to twist and turn throughout. The weather added an extra dimension to the final, some players excelled in the conditions while other crumbled. The number of scores on the day was indicative of how tough the conditions were.
Man of the Match
I think the man of the match has to go to Diarmuid Connolly. McCaffery was superb but Connolly’s threat throughout and game management were different class. Connolly is like marmite; you either love him or loathe him. I was not an admirer of the player until today. His performance in the final spoke volumes, forsaken his scoring for the benefit of the team. How many times did he intercept Kerry ball? His ball distribution to his inside forward line were superb. A worthy winner of the accolade. A season of ups and down but Connolly excelled when his team required him the most.
Coldrick had a thankless task but the Meath native by and large had a good game. He tried to let the game down despite the conditions. Kerry could point to a couple of incidents. McMahon’s close attention to Gooch Cooper, zero protection for Star for a couple of aerial bombs. His reluctance to not ping Dublin for time wasting (bring Cluxton up) was infuriating and there was occasions when Cluxton delayed his kick out horrendously long. Coldrick got the black card spot on. O’Mahoney had to go for his rugby tackle challenge late on. Kerry can have zero complaints on the referee today. Tough assignment and Coldrick worked well with his match officials throughout. I would like to know though how many steps you can now take with a gaelic football now? Both teams were running with the ball for at least eight steps. Rating: 7.5/10.