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Blue Sunday: 8 talking points from Dublin's All-Ireland semi-final win

Did Kevin McManamon mean to go for goal? That, and seven other talking points from yesterday’s big game in Croke Park.

Highs and lows: Stephen Cluxton and Paul Flynn celebrate while Colm Cooper reflects on defeat.
Highs and lows: Stephen Cluxton and Paul Flynn celebrate while Colm Cooper reflects on defeat.
Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. A masterclass from the Gooch

BEFORE YESTERDAY COLM Cooper had scored 1-19 in Kerry’s four Championship games this summer (by contrast Stephen Cluxton and Bernard Brogan were Dublin’s top scorers with 0-13 and 1-10 respectively).

The Gooch added four more to his individual tally yesterday but those scores do little to represent his majestic showing at centre-forward. He ran Dublin ragged, particularly in the first half, and his fingerprints were all over Kerry’s two goals early on.

There has never been any doubt about his quality as a footballer but the wisdom of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s decision to play him at 11 was blindingly obvious again.

2. Old dogs for the hard road

Dublin’s new generation have hogged most of the headlines this summer but it was two of the squad’s elder statesmen who stepped out of the shadows and led by example up front.

Bernard Brogan and Diarmud Connolly only managed three points between them in Dublin’s last two games, the Leinster final and the quarter-final win against Cork; yesterday they combined for 10.

The ease and skill with which Brogan kicked four from play will reassure those who were worried about how the 2010 Footballer of the Year is adapting to the new world order. For Connolly it was easily his best performance of the summer and his confidence shone through when he kicked a pressure free to level things up with five minutes to play.

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Cian O’Sullivan and Michael Dara MacAuley celebrate (INPHO/James Crombie)

3. Dublin’s shaky defence

Cork asked questions of the Dublin full-back line in the quarter-finals and again it’s the defence that will come under the most scrutiny after yesterday’s win.

It is accepted that Jim Gavin’s open, attacking philosophy is going to lead to plenty of chances for the opposition but he will be disappointed by the ease with which Kerry’s movement cut them open for the first two goals.

That Gavin’s first two changes — Philly McMahon on for Kevin O’Brien and Denis Bastick on for Ger Brennan — were in the back lines speaks volumes.

4. A blueprint to beat the Blues?

Former Dublin goalkeeper John O’Leary said this week that the way to beat Dublin was to put pressure on Cluxton’s kick-outs. Maybe Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his backroom team were listening, or maybe they had seen the disruption Meath caused with that tactic in the Leinster final.

Either way they pressed high and got their rewards, forcing Dublin into turnovers as they tried to work the ball out from the back. It led indirectly to the game’s third goal as Dublin were penalised for the kick-out not going 20 metres. From the resulting throw ball, Kerry won possession — and the penalty which James O’Donoghue converted.

You’d wonder what James Horan makes of it all…

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Stephen Cluxton under a different kind of pressure from Declan O’Sullivan (INPHO/James Crombie)

5. Dublin’s bench force their way into final plans

Before yesterday Dublin were touted as a fitter, better conditioned team that were likely to outlast Kerry in the final quarter. While that did happen — Dublin scored 2-8 to Kerry’s 0-3 in the final 25 minutes — it was the quality of the Dublin substitutes that really came to the fore.

Gavin waited just 17 minutes before bringing Philly McMahon on to replace Kevin O’Brien, a move he described afterwards as purely tactical. The decision to bring Denis Bastick on for Ger Brennan and move Cian O’Sullivan to centre-back paid dividends and helped Dublin reassert themselves in the midfield battle.

When he got his chance Dean Rock (on for Ciaran Kilkenny) showed just why there has been such clamour for his inclusion this summer, scoring 0-2 from play, while Eoghan O’Gara (on for Paul Mannion) finished with a thunderous goal off the underside of Kealy’s crossbar.

Add in Kevin McManamon’s goal and together Dublin’s subs combined for 2-3 of the final total while Kerry’s didn’t register a single score.

6. Should Jonny Cooper have walked?

Dublin led by a point when Cooper, already on a yellow card, swung a leg at a loose ball to try and clear the danger. Instead he caught Colm Cooper and denied the Gooch what looked to be a good goal-scoring opportunity.

In deciding on his punishment, referee Cormac Reilly gave Cooper the benefit of the doubt and let him off with a final warning. Had the Na Fianna man been shown a second yellow and a red, Dublin would have been down to 14 men and who knows how the final 10 minutes would have played out.

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Dean Rock: scored 0-2 off the bench (INPHO/James Crombie)

7. Did ‘Kerry Killer’ Kev mean to go for goal?

After 69 minutes in which the counties were inseparable, the game ultimately hinged on Kevin McManamon’s goal as the clock ticked towards the red.

The question in every car, sitting room and pub last night was: did he mean it?

Set free by the dogged battling of Michael Dara MacAuley in midfield, Dublin’s super sub charged through the heart of Kerry’s defence and with keeper Brendan Kealy standing on the edge of the square, lofted the ball over his head and into the net.

In his post-match press conference Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice asked the question, enquiring if McManamon had “scuffed” the shot.

Even the man himself didn’t seem so sure, telling RTÉ Sport: “I said I’ll try and aim for the crossbar and it might sneak under or go over but we’ll get something out of it. I’m blessed.”

8. “Football the way it was meant to be played”

That was Jim Gavin’s assessment after one of the finest games in recent years and a chapter worthy of its place in the Dublin v Kerry storybook. Who could argue?

True sportsmanship as victorious Bernard Brogan consoles Kerry’s Marc Ó Sé

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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