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'They’re a good bit more defensively conscious' - Dublin changes since Donegal loss

Kerry’s Éamonn Fitzmaurice has watched how Dublin have worked at the back.

A dejected Alan Brogan and Jonny Cooper after last year's loss to Donegal.
A dejected Alan Brogan and Jonny Cooper after last year's loss to Donegal.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

IT’S ONLY JUST over a year since Dublin’s All-Ireland dreams were shattered by a Donegal team that carved them open at will.

Dublin were taken for three goals in that game, a defensive collapse that proved their 2015 downfall.

In 2014 they have improved notably with just four goals conceded in their six games to date. Dublin kept three clean sheets in Leinster and the first goal they shipped was highly dubious when Sean Quigley barged into Stephen Cluxton in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Their defensive solidity has carried them to Sunday week’s All-Ireland final and the tweaks to their structure have not gone unnoticed by the man preparing now to take them down.

Conscious

“I think they’re a good bit more defensively conscious,” outlines Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice.

“They’re protecting their own goals a lot better, protecting their own half of the pitch a bit better.

Aidan OÕShea and Cian O'Sullivan Cian O'Sullivan in action for Dublin against Mayo's Aidan O'Shea last weekend. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Cian O’Sullivan had done a lot of very good work for them this year in that regard. But I don’t think too many teams play with six up on them either which will ask questions of them as well and be interesting.

“Denis Bastick while he was on the pitch was defensively-minded. He was in the middle of the field but was conscious of his defensive duties.

Seamus OÕShea and Denis Bastick Denis Bastick climbs high against the Mayo midfield Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“We learned lessons in 2013 as well, we learned lessons in the drawn Munster final this year. When you don’t win a game you learn valuable lessons.

“They learned some harsh lessons against Donegal last year and they’ve brought it forward again this year, while at the same time still maintaining that fantastic game they have where they can put up huge scores.”

Fitzmaurice watched Dublin coast through Leinster before they received the ‘gut check’ that they needed against Mayo.

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Eamonn Fitzmaurice with Diarmuid O'Keeffe Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice with selector Diarmuid Murphy at the drawn All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I think they’ll be delighted with the two (Mayo) games from the point of view that they coasted through Leinster, did what they had to do and were professional.

Again similarly with the Fermanagh game, did what they had to do without really having to go up the gears.

Gut Check

“But I think they got a serious gut check, particularly the second day.

“The first day they played a lot of the football and probably are disappointed they didn’t close it out a bit better.

“With 20 minutes to go on Saturday night, they had to really up the ante and I think they did so. I was impressed with them.”

Jim Gavin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin at the final whistle of the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dublin’s victory finally brings us to the last two, the pair of heavweights that were held up as they key forces from the outset this season.

The 2013 champions and the 2014 champions to joust for the that 2015 title.

“I always felt that if we were to win the All-Ireland this year we’d probably have to beat Dublin somewhere along the line,” reveals Fitzmaurice.

“I’d imagine they were the same. The way that the draws were, most people would have predicted a Dublin-Kerry final bar someone getting caught along the line.

James O'Donoghue celebrates scoring his sides first goal James O'Donoghue fires home his first goal for Kerry against Dublin in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“So I don’t think it’s a huge surprise. They’ve seen plenty of us, I’ve been at a share of their games.

“While things have changed and moved on from 2013, they haven’t changed that much. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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