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What are the key selection issues facing Dublin and Kerry before Saturday's replay?

Jim Gavin and Peter Keane have plenty to ponder before their second All-Ireland showdown.

James McCarthy and Tommy Walsh after the drawn final.
James McCarthy and Tommy Walsh after the drawn final.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

TO STICK OR to twist?

That is the selection dilemma facing Jim Gavin and Peter Keane entering round two in Croke Park next Sunday. Do they trust in the starting side from the drawn game to get the job done on this occasion or are changes needed to inject something different into their challenge?

There has been a pattern of All-Ireland final replays over this decade to reflect upon with three hurling editions in succession between 2012 and 2014 along with the football replay three years ago.

The hurling ties were characterised by the success of team changes. In 2012 Brian Cody made two alterations, springing a surprise in pitching Walter Walsh into combat and rewarded by his return of 1-3. Two years later he repeated the trick with three new faces. Kieran Joyce won man-of-the-match while John Power grabbed a vital goal. In both instances Galway and Tipperary were unchanged.

In between 2013 saw both Cork and Clare make an attacking switch but it was the dazzling display of Shane O’Donnell that lit up that replay as he repaid Davy Fitzgerald’s faith with an invaluable scoring haul of 3-3.

Jim Gavin has shuffled his Dublin pack successfully as well. Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews and Michael Fitzsimons entered the fray second time around against Mayo in 2016, the latter claiming the man-of-the-match accolade.

But what could issues will Dublin and Kerry face on this occasion?

Dublin

Dublin’s performance levels dipped strikingly on the first day of this month. They were powered forward by a collection of outstanding individual showings from Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Brian Howard and Dean Rock. There’s plenty of scope for improvement elsewhere.

In defence there are decisions to be made on match-ups given the excellence of Sean O’Shea at the heart of Kerry’s attack and the trouble David Clifford caused Jonny Cooper. The Na Fianna man was sent-off and John Small received a yellow card but the established players are still key cogs in the Dublin defensive wheel despite those sanctions. 

Dublin will hope to get more of an impact from Brian Fenton, their midfield powerhouse who was successfully stifled, while Kerry managed to limit the influence to an extent of two Player of the Year candidates in Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan.

Eoin Murchan and Diarmuid Connolly did instil plenty energy in the Dublin cause in the last quarter. Paddy Small may have seen a pair of shots drop short but he was heavily involved and won the last free when Rock attempted to land the winner. Have any of them made the case for inclusion to Gavin? Or will he turn to an experienced defensive operator like Philly McMahon or Cian O’Sullivan to shore up their effort in the rearguard?

Kerry

Kerry got so much right against Dublin first time out, belying their position as underdogs in taking the fight to the favourites. They created plenty goal-scoring opportunities while Jack Barry was a major success for his input around the middle as he ably assisted the outstanding David Moran. 

What will they work on for the replay? A repeat of McCaffrey’s attacking heroics for Dublin is not something Kerry can afford. Stephen O’Brien appears a proven option to try to match McCaffrey in the pace stakes while his direct style could give the Clontarf man something to think about at the opposite end.

A series of Kerry substitutions made their presence felt. Killian Spillane was a livewire when introduced, he took the Dublin defence for 1-1 and could push hard for a starting spot. Tommy Walsh is another forward option for Kerry to mull over, pitch him in from the start or hold him in reserve? And if he is held back, is their a case for using him earlier in the game than midway through the second half?

Jack Sherwood has performed really impressively for two games in a row off the bench, bringing some directness and composure in possession. That’s another player who Peter Keane could be tempted to spring from the start.

With the warm-up games out of the way, Murray, Bernard and Gavan discuss the renewed cause for optimism, impressive individual player form, and a potential quarter-final versus either South Africa or New Zealand.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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