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Silencing of Kerry machine will fuel Cup dreams of rivals

By Ger Houlahan

It was the most talked about final in years with all the pressure heaped on this highly talented, yet fickle, Dublin side.

Would the ultra physical and exceptionally fit metropolitans defeat the free-flowing Kerry machine whose second home is Croke Park?

Which Dublin would turn up, would it be the totally dominant side that defeated the aging Tyrone or would it be the team that stuttered to victory against the well-oiled Donegal machine?

In Kerry’s case, could they play for the entire 70 minutes or would a blitz-like performance as produced earlier in the Munster championship against Cork be enough?

Their path, as it has been for the past 30 years, has been much easier but could the non-competitive nature of their recent games come back to haunt them when tested for the entire 70 minutes?

This turned out to be a truly superb game of football that no-one deserved to lose. It ebbed and flowed throughout with Kerry looking in an unassailable position when four in front and seven minutes to play.

However goals change games and, like the Donegal match, the introduction of Kevin McManamon changed everything.

Not only did he score the crucial goal that brought Dublin back into the game, but he lifted the team and drove them forward at every opportunity.

This time around, Dublin truly believed they could win the title, never giving up, displaying tremendous fitness and determination with a never say die attitude.

Isn’t sport a wonderful thing? Kerry was never more in control than when they lost the game! They dominated the second half completely, totally on top around the middle of the field with Donaghy and Gooch, for once, coming to the fore up front.

Dublin were conceding unnecessary frees due to inexperience and unrelenting pressure from the Kingdom. Kerry will wonder why they lost this match.

Albeit Declan O’Sullivan made a poor mistake for the goal, the Kerry machine didn’t really get into their stride, but perhaps that was more down to Dublin who restricted them to three scores in the first half and scoreless for 30 of the first 35 minutes.

Dublin’s defensive organisation kept Gooch and Declan O’Sullivan under wraps and this was a victory for teamwork and organisation as much as individual brilliance.

Dublin, have taken football fitness and commitment to a new level and for all those other teams it will be a case of ‘shape up or ship out’. If other county teams and players aren’t willing to do the early morning shifts or raise their own bar, they needn’t bother turning up.

Dublin have decent players and some exceptional stars but the depth of the squad and hard work overcame a team of better footballers who were equally well prepared. Therein lies the hope for other teams. A team that has so often been beaten at the highest level never gave up and eventually got their just desserts.

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