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Friday 9 December 2016

Ciaran Whelan: True Blue class shone through when it counted

Heroic defence the cornerstone as Dublin complete well-deserved win

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First and foremost, it was great to be in Croke Park to see Dublin win an All-Ireland title and both the players and management deserve huge credit for securing the county's third All-Ireland in in just five years.

It may seem strange for Dublin's younger supporters given the success at both All-Ireland and National League level that Dublin have enjoyed in recent years for the more seasoned supporter to be so thrilled with how the team have fared in recent times.

To win so much silverware takes a special bunch of players and this panel will justifiably go down in history as one of the greatest to ever represent the county and they deserve every accolade that is bestowed upon them in the coming days, weeks and months.

Greatest

I think it is fair to day at this point that this team is probably the greatest team ever to put on the Dublin jersey and the sacrifices that they have made is finally being rewarded on the top stage.

It is a truly remarkable achievement to win so many Leinster, All-Ireland and National league wins and we should

savour every moment as these periods of success have been few and far between over the past thirty years.

That Dublin deserved to win is beyond question as they played the clearer and more concise football throughout and even the most loyal and one-eyed of Kerry supporters would recognise that the Kingdom were second best on the day.

With so much focus given on the strategy that Kerry would opt to use in dealing with Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs, perhaps the most telling factor was how their own restarts fell apart in the third quarter as Dublin picked up a wealth of possession.

This was perhaps in the mind of Eamon Fitzmaurice and his management team in their decision to take off David Moran but I believe that was a mistake as he still appeared the most likely source of aerial ball for Kerry.

Some of the other changes seemed hard to reason and it certainly wasn't Kerry's finest hour on the sideline although one player introduced who did make an impact was Darren O'Sullivan.

The pace he brought to the attack was in contrast to the muddled and ponderous approach play that was a feature of Kerry's first-half performance and Dublin's bench reacted to O'Sullivan's direct running by switching Jack McCaffrey to the right flank of their defence, allowing Cian O'Sullivan to revert back to sweeping in front of his full-back line.

That was a clever and incisive switch from Jim Gavin, who deserved recognition for what he has done in taking over the reins and most of the changes that were made yesterday had a positive effect on Dublin's play.

I suppose Alan Brogan could have been introduced earlier in the game as he showed his class with a superb point that effectively acted as an insurance score for Dublin at the time and Brogan was one of many Dublin players to make telling contributions in what was Dublin's 25th All-Ireland success.

Most of the plaudits should be reserved for the defenders with Jonny Cooper in exceptional form prior to his replacement and his heroic defending was mirrored by that of Rory O'Carroll, who dealt well with the two attacking strategies that Kerry adopted through full-forwards Paul Geaeny and substitute Kieran Donaghy.

Granted, Geaney kicked two points in the first-half but O'Carroll made some crucial interventions and he was well supported at all times by the classy O'Sullivan and Philly McMahon, who kept Colm Cooper as ineffectual as we have ever seen on the big day.

Of course, it wasn't the complete display by Dublin and they should have completed their win by a far greater margin but none of that will matter this morning as they enjoy that special feeling (I'd imagine!!) that comes from winning Sam Maguire.

Certainly, given the control that they enjoyed in the third quarter, they weren't clinical enough in front of goal although both Paddy Andrews and Brian Fenton could count themselves unfortunate not to have netted as Dublin lay siege to the Kerry goal.

However, they still managed to tag on a couple of points at that time to keep Kerry at arm's length and I was delighted to see Paul Flynn kick two points in the second-half as I felt it was his best display for a while.

In addition to those two scores, he gave Cluxton an option from kick-outs throughout and his work-rate epitomised the intensity that Dublin brought to the game, in contrast to a Kerry team that struggled for their true form throughout the match.

In strange in some ways to reflect on a Dublin win with their key match-winners of the likes of Diarmuid Connolly, Cluxton, Bernard Brogan or Michael Darragh Macauley making match-winning contributions but that almost reflects better on the quality and depth that Dublin have at their disposal.

Not that either of the aforementioned struggled yesterday but to see other players proving equally influential and to see the likes of Eoghan O'Gara and Cormac Costello celebrating at the final whistle should ensure that nobody is going to take their place for granted once the Dubs look to retain their title next year.

Whether Kerry will be able to dethrone Dublin in 2016 is hard to call but I'd imagine they'll be hell bent on rectifying yesterday's performance and with two minor titles secured in the last two years, they have a conveyor belt of talent coming through to ensure it won't be long before to take their self-titled rightful place at the top table.

But for now, the glory belongs to Dublin and rightly so as they have proven themselves the best team in the country over the past five years and their trophy haul is a fair reflection as to where they stand in the overall scheme of things.

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