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Peter Canavan: Dublin will have learned valuable lessons

In battle: Dublin’s Kevin McManamon with David Moran
In battle: Dublin’s Kevin McManamon with David Moran

By Peter Canavan

Seamus Darby brought the last five in a row attempt tumbling down with one swing of his boot in 1982, and for me, in the drawn game between Dublin and Kerry, it came down to similarly fine margins.

The crunch moment came in the 73rd minute. David Moran had possession, and if there's one man that has vision and the ability to deliver a 50m kick pass on the Kerry team then it's him.

His lifelong friend Tommy Walsh was in space and the closest Dublin player to him was Stephen Cluxton, who had wandered away from goal to try and cover him. Had Moran spotted him, there was a two v one situation in Kerry's favour that would have almost certainly led to a goal.

However, Moran didn't get his pass away and Kevin McManamon and Davy Byrne combined to produce a hugely significant turnover. A few seconds later, Dean Rock clipped over a point for Dublin. When all was said and done, it came down to a single kick. That's how close Kerry came to halting the Dubs' drive for five.

It meant that Dublin lived to fight another day, a far cry from what I predicted in these pages before the drawn match. But I'm standing by my original call - a double-figure Dublin win - and here's why.

Dublin just won't leave the door open like that again.

If you had given Kerry manager Peter Keane a wishlist in the build-up to the drawn game, it would have read something like this: Brian Fenton nullified, Ciaran Kilkenny pushed to the margins and the terrible twins of Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion kept to just three points between them.

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As it turned out, Keane got all of that and more, including playing more than half the game against 14 men.

As well as that, you saw a general under-performance from Dublin. After the game, I scanned the various player ratings across the papers. It is a subjective exercise but it does give you a sense of things. On most occasions, you had around half of the Dublin outfield players on six or below. The general consensus was that Dublin failed to play anywhere close to their potential and that hasn't happened for a long time.

And despite all of that, Kerry still didn't manage to tip them over the edge.

It begs the question, what will they need if they are to win tomorrow? Two Dublin men sent off?

Still, you have to give the Kingdom credit for their approach to the game and attitude from the first whistle. They set the tone from early on and their first score came about after Adrian Spillane put Jonny Cooper on his backside as he came out after picking up a short kick-out.

Spillane fed Sean O'Shea, who went at Michael Fitzsimons not once but twice before splitting the posts. That was the moment you knew they cared nothing for reputations or history. That attitude will stand to them again tomorrow.

No one in Kerry will try and pretend that the drawn game didn't represent an opportunity lost, they'll have headed back down the road knowing they left a lot of scores behind them.

Across a host of measurements in open play, the teams more or less broke even.

In terms of possessions, Kerry had 44 and Dublin had 42. The Kingdom shaded the attacks by 34 to 33 and they also had two more shots on goal. But, surprisingly, for a team that boasts a much vaunted forward line, they struggled in front of goal. Kerry hit 44% of their chances and Dublin came in at 50%.

But for the first half, Kerry's conversion rate was sitting at 24% from play, and if their accuracy let them down then so did their game management.

Perhaps it's to be expected with such a young team but, by my count, Kerry were turned over four times in the last 10 minutes of play.

On the flip side, Dublin were brilliant when the game was on the line. We have often seen them close a game out, but here they had to chase the match and they were excellent in that regard too. They gambled, pushed up high, won the turnovers and kept the dream alive.

Both managers have big decisions to make but I reckon Jim Gavin will give his starting 15 another shot. A fair portion of them lost their individual battles and I think he'll offer them the chance to atone for that.

And I've no doubt he'll be sending a rejuvenated Cooper into David Clifford's corner. The Na Fianna star almost went down in history as the man who blew the drive for five but his team-mates bailed him out. I expect him to play like a man possessed.

Mannion, O'Callaghan, Kilkenny and Fenton just won't be as marginalised this time around. I think Gavin will change his bench. I can see a recall for Rory O'Carroll specifically to deal with the physical threat of Walsh, while Bernard Brogan is also worth a recall.

He might not be the force of nature he once was but he gives you the option of a cool head who can still snaffle a point or win a free.

You'll also see a Dublin line much quicker to make changes. They erred in leaving Cooper on Clifford for so long. They'll take no such chances this time around.

Make no mistake, Kerry are a very good team, and last time around they proved their mental fortitude. They'll give Dublin plenty but I expect them to find the waters a little too choppy.

Last time I predicted a double-digit win for Dublin. Before the sending off, they were five points up and halfway there. I'll stick with that again. Dublin to make history.

Belfast Telegraph


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