THE traditionalists and neutrals alike will be happy, as it will be a Dublin versus Kerry in the All-Ireland final on September 1.
Can the Kingdom prevent Dublin from completing the five in a row?
Dublin finished up defeating Mayo with ease, but approaching half time a small part of all of us wondered if it was going to be Mayo’s day. Mayo set up with a more mobile and hard-working team and went out to frustrate Dublin. That was certainly the case as Dublin were turned over repeatedly around the middle.
On occasions, Dublin’s kick-out can malfunction or the delivery of ball to the inside line can be off, but it is rare that the possession is lost further out the field. Dublin’s leaders in the engine room James McCarthy and Brian Fenton uncharacteristically took the ball into contact in the wrong areas of the field.
This changed in the second half as Dublin moved the ball faster and the attack played with greater cohesion resulting in an early goal from Con O’Callaghan. Mayo’s work-rate dipped and from here there was only going to be one winner.
Mayo will regret not protecting the D better early in the second half and question their decision-making on their own kick-outs. Brian Fenton was dominating in the air but the ball was still driven out towards him. Losing possession in that sector meant the Mayo defense wasn’t as organised and Dublin were able to take full advantage.
Fenton has some record, yet to lose a championship game with Dublin, and you have to admire the way he plays the game. He completes his defensive duties like any top player but has the composure in front of goal of any good forward.
His goals have been scored late in games, which are a testament to his excellent physical conditioning. The way he sprints back to his position after scoring just sends out all the right messages to his team and demoralises the opposition.
Like many team sports, you need your finishers. The ability to take a high percentage of your chances when the stakes are at their highest.
Dublin had this last week again with Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, and Dean Rock delivering top performances. Each provided a different type of threat, which makes Dublin harder to stop.
It was interesting to see that Dublin and Kerry’s conversion rate improved in the second half while in contrast, Mayo and Tyrone’s conversation rate dropped considerably.
This is understandable as one team takes their chances and creates a lead it puts pressure on the opposition to respond. This pressure is increased in the second half as players can be aware that time is slipping away. Missing chances then can increase the pressure further and the shooting can get more erratic.
Kerry, with a new management and young team, are delighted to be back in a senior All-Ireland final, the first since 2015.
I had expected Tyrone to defeat Kerry on the basis of the inside threat of Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly plus the greater experience of the Tyrone team. Tyrone scored 18 points but just didn’t possess the goal threat anticipated.
Kerry were leaking scores but didn’t concede goals through Paul Murphy’s positioning as sweeper plus the ability of the Kerry defenders to keep their direct opponents outside them. As shown by O’Callaghan’s ability to sidestep Lee Keegan, Dublin will provide a greater threat to the Kerry defense the next day.
Also, the typical Tyrone running game didn’t quite click to further expose the Kerry team on the back foot. The positioning of Tom O’Sullivan on Peter Harte and the introduction of Jack Sherwood and Gavin White at half time were key.
So much good Tyrone play goes through Harte while the Kerry replacements added the right combination of pace and directness to deal with Tyrone.
Tom O’Sullivan is really developing into a top player. He first made his mark when Kerry drew with Monaghan in last year’s Super 8s and from here he has shown great consistency.
O’Sullivan has displayed the ability to be a man-marker, a corner-back along with his attacking wing-back role from where he first stood out. He has the right mix of speed and endurance, which can slice through an opposition defense as we saw in the Munster final against Cork.
It was Tyrone who were actually exposed on the back foot when Stephen O’Brien scored the game’s only goal, which proved to be the difference. His desire to get forward again and to get back up the field after winning the turnover was an example to any player. The strength and conditioning work is important but in a game, it’s that ability to really push yourself, which is key.
Tommy Walsh will gain much of the plaudits for his impact but overall I think the attack as a unit had a combination of pace but patience, which created more space in the right areas. Like Dublin, Kerry then had the finishers to take their chances.
There will be a massive build-up over the next few weeks as Dublin strive to complete the historic five in a row. They look odds-on at the moment but are vulnerable in a few areas. Time will tell whether Kerry can take advantage.
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