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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 8 April, 2020

Johnny Doyle: Damp squib of a final symptomatic of a disappointing championship

The42′s football columnist dissects today’s All-Ireland final.

You can't take anything from Dublin but 2015 won't live long in the memory.
You can't take anything from Dublin but 2015 won't live long in the memory.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

IT WAS A final symptomatic of an underwhelming championship summer.

That’s not to take anything away from Dublin – they were deserving winners on the day, no doubt about it – but we’re not going to look back on the 2015 championship as one to remember.

After all the build-up, the hype and the anticipation, we didn’t get the game we expected or we wanted and there was a part of me hoping for a replay because the rain dampened the spirits and the day itself.

For the neutral, a draw would have been the ideal result. Get everyone back to Croke Park on a dry day and let these two heavyweights go at each other in better conditions.

A summer that failed to ignite ultimately petered out.

Looking back over the last few months, it all went according to script. All the provincial finals went as expected and when we reached the quarter-final juncture, you were thinking that the championship started here.

It was August and the business end of proceedings had arrived but it just didn’t live up to expectations and we certainly won’t recall this year as a memorable one.

Yet there were still moments to savour. Sunday’s final at HQ is unlikely to make the highlights of the decade DVD but there was an atmosphere we’ve come to expect on days like this.

Colm Cooper with Philly McMahon It was a scrappy game from start to finish. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin bring the crowds and the razzmatazz and they probably played the better brand of football on the day.

All things considered, Jim Gavin’s side adapted to the difficult conditions better and they made fewer mistakes over the course of the 70 minutes – that ultimately was the difference.

No doubt the contest was spoiled by the incessant rain in the capital but Kerry simply didn’t bring their ‘A’ game. We didn’t see the Kerry we’re used to seeing and I’m sure they’ll have no excuses.

The best team on the day prevailed and Dublin are deservedly celebrating with the Sam Maguire tonight.

There were so many basic handling errors, from both sides, and any time there was a bit of physicality, lads were slipping and sliding all over the place.

The Croke Park pitch doesn’t tend to absorb the rain but the water instead sits on top – hence why so many players were losing their footing.

It was sloppy. We didn’t have the high-scoring game and it wasn’t a great spectacle but I wouldn’t blame either team – any side would have struggled to make a game of it out there today.

From the outset, it was one of those games where the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win and that proved to be the case.

Dublin were much sharper. They were tidier in possession and didn’t seem to cough up the ball as much as Kerry did.

The Kingdom’s build-up was slow and that meant they weren’t able to ‘buy’ as many frees as you would expect in those conditions. When it’s wet, if you run with pace the referee is more likely to award frees when there is minimal contact.

It’s too easy to blame the conditions though. Eamonn Fitzmaurice made a couple of big calls and because things didn’t go his way, they’re going to be analysed now.

Marc Ó Sé was a big call. He didn’t even come off the bench so that would suggest he wasn’t 100% fit but he’s the sort of player you want going into a big battle and Fitzmaurice was also slow to introduce Kieran Donaghy.

Colm Cooper Colm Cooper and Kerry were far from their best today. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The form of Colm Cooper was another factor. He didn’t have the summer we’re used to seeing and I can’t recall him having a shot today. When he’s pulling the strings, Kerry will play well so it was a combination of factors that led to the result we got.

Instead of running with pace at the Dublin defence, Kerry went lateral and that allowed blue shirts to get behind the ball. It’s not an obvious blanket defence and you’ve got to take your hat off to Dublin for the way they’ve defended.

As the curtain comes down on another championship, you’re left to look for positives.

Tyrone and Monaghan’s campaigns spring to mind while Mayo continue to knock on the door but there’s no team that you’d say are heading in the right direction.

I’m confident we’ll be in the exact same position this time next year, talking about the same top teams. It’s a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Finance is a massive thing and it’s too easy for the smaller counties to criticise the big boys like Dublin because they have the resources available. Why don’t they think outside the box and look for funding that would help them reach the next level?

For one reason or another, this year more than any other highlighted the need for change and while I certainly wouldn’t be looking at a two-tier system, change is needed.

As we all know, the GAA are slow to change and I’m sure we’ll be facing the same problem in 12 months. For now, however, this is Dublin’s moment and they’re deserving All-Ireland winners tonight.

12 pictures that capture Kerry heartbreak and Dublin euphoria

The weather, the case for the defence and the rest of today’s final talking points

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Johnny Doyle

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