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Analysis: Attacking width and Moran's power help Kerry to end Dublin hoodoo

Kerry have proof that, for now at least, they are competitive, writes our football analyst Rob Carroll.
Apr 10th 2017, 5:37 PM 17,653 29

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DUBLIN WENT UNBEATEN for 36 games and 765 days. In that time, they have managed a total points haul of 715 (48-571), conceding just 461 (21-398).

There have been a few turkey shoots and a few epic battles. Yesterday’s league final was more the latter, and there is a certain symmetry that it’s Kerry who bookend the 36-game unbeaten run.

Kerry will say it’s just the league and nobody will get carried away but this is an important win for this Kerry team. Belief can only take you so far; sometimes it’s important to point to actual proof that you can compete with Dublin.

Having played Dublin twice during this league campaign, home and away, Kerry have proof that, for now at least, they are competitive.

Tactically, you wonder if we are going to see a shift in emphasis. For the last few years it has been thought that you need to defend in numbers to have any chance against Dublin but Kerry went on the attack, both in Tralee and Croke Park. In fact that’s the most points (white flags) Dublin have conceded in Jim Gavin’s tenure.

The width of the post was required to get over the line and had Rock’s final free gone over to force extra time, maybe the game would have taken on a different narrative.

But either way, Dublin have been going to the well a lot lately. Their form, albeit with plenty of personnel changes, has been patchy in 2017.

Bravery

In Tralee a few weeks ago, I noted that Kerry only allowed Cluxton to go short with four kickouts. On Sunday in Croke Park, they only won four of Dublin’s 25 kickouts.

For large parts of the game they simply let Cluxton chip it to the full backs and then in the second half, they started to push forward. Despite not winning the ball directly from kickouts, it does signal an intent and it makes Dublin’s job harder to move the ball from end to end.

Four points up with 10 minutes to go, we can see Kerry are man-to-man on the Dublin kickout.

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They picked their moments to push up. The extra width of the Croke Park pitch and Cluxton’s ability makes it very difficult to really get to him, but they did enough to be happy with their kickout strategy.

Jim Gavin said afterwards that Dublin had enough of the ball and gave it away too easily. They had five handpass turnovers; Kevin McManamon had one in injury time that he really should have done better with, and Dean Rock and David Byrne made a crucial error.

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In this passage of play, Kerry are man-to-man with no sweeper. Ciaran Kilkenny has time and picks out Dean Rock. Dublin’s full forward line are primed for this sort of ball, but they rarely turn and take their man on, and instead, they are looking to lay it off to the runner.

Although Rock gives the ball away, Byrne is probably at fault.

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Rock is just gathering the ball and Byrne is nearly ahead of him. He needed to check his run by a couple of strides to arrive on his shoulder. Instead, Rock has to turn and play the ball in the air.

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Granted it’s not a great ball either way by Rock but had Byrne taken it off the shoulder, Brogan has come out and created the space inside for Byrne to have a real go at goal.

It’s a small thing but when the margins are tight they add up. Of Dublin’s five misplaced hand passes, four happened inside the Kerry 45.

Paul Mannion added a lot of life to the Dublin attack but again, uncharacteristically for Dublin, he gave away a ball towards the end that he really should have done better with.

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Two Kerry defenders get sucked towards him, leaving Eoghan O’Gara with space inside.

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Instead of finding him, Mannion found the end line. We expect so much from the Dublin team, especially in clutch situations, but some of those key moments on Sunday just let them down.

Kerry’s width

Something very noticeable from the Kerry scores was their width. It’s not often you will see Cian O’Sullivan substituted and Kerry did a great job in making the Dublin sweeper ineffective. Although O’Sullivan is the designated sweeper, you could find any one of about six players in that position over the course of the game.

Kerry had one point midway through the second half that reminded me a lot of a Dublin point: attack the wing, keep width on the far side, switch the play, and suddenly there is an acre of space down the middle.

Here, Peter Crowley picks the ball up hugging the touchline.

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Although Dublin give him the room to run, he stays along the touchline.

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Flynn is playing as the sweeper with O’Sullivan (top right) doing the marking.

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As the ball gets moved centrally we can see the sort of width Kerry are keeping on the far side.

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Dublin look disorganised but Kerry are using every inch of the width Croke Park offers them and it creates a nice hole down the middle where Paul Murphy kicks an easy point.

As the second half was ending, we could see a similar move. Keep an eye on both David Moran and Ciaran Reddin as the move progresses.

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The ball gets played wide and this time O’Sullivan is the sweeper.

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Moran makes a run forward that occupies O’Sullivan. In itself that is probably fine, but where is Moran’s marker, Reddin? He should be in shot and filling that space at the top of the D.

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Fitzsimons also makes an error here. He commits to the ball, knowing he has men over his shoulder. If you are going to do that you better make sure you affect the ball.

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He doesn’t and instead, he gets caught in no man’s land with a ball over his head.

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Paul Geaney makes a really intelligent run off Donnchadh Walsh’s shoulder, just as Reddin appears in shot.

Kerry kicked some wonderful points throughout the game and one thing they managed to do was constantly keep the scoreboard ticking over.

We are used to Dublin playing with width but Kerry used this very effectively on Sunday.

Moran’s power

David Moran picked up the man of the match award and there were two big instances that stood out. His physique twice allowed him to power through the heart of Dublin.

The two points above illustrate how Kerry made space but when they needed some brute force, Moran provided it.

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Here, he takes the ball on the 45 and bursts through Darren Daly’s outstretched arm…

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Then bounces off Reddin…

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And kicks a point on the move, under pressure from James McCarthy, with his left foot.

In the last few moments of the game, Moran picks the ball up in midfield, but the Dubs look to be well-positioned.

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Moran puts his head down and knowing he probably has a bit of a mismatch against David Byrne, he takes him on.

Byrne does well to get a hand in but once Moran re-gathered the ball, he showed the determination necessary.

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Off balance, this time on his right, he manages to get the ball over the bar.

There was a really good mix of guile and aggression from Kerry. The game never really boiled over and keeping Rock to six placed balls is a good achievement. They went on the offensive and pressurised Dublin.

In the end there was just the width of the post separating the teams. You don’t imagine it will be much different if we see them meet again in the summer.

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Rob Carroll

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