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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Fitzmaurice: The Dubs could wipe the floor with us

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

BECAUSE 2009 is still so shockingly vivid in the collective psyche of Dublin football fans, they're bound to take suggestions of Kerry's demise with an industrial supply of salt.

And yesterday, upon setting up the first championship meeting of Gaelic football's most storied rivalry since the 2011 All-Ireland final with a 0-15 to 0-9 victory over Cavan, Kingdom manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice did his best to take the expectancy out of the preamble to what will be a hugely anticipated semi-final on September 1.

"At the end of the day," he began in the most optimistic note of his post-match media address, "we are into a semi-final; it's a results business and we've a lot of work to do over the next four weeks.

"But if we play the way that we did in the second half against Dublin, it wouldn't be pretty."

It's true. Kerry were flat as a pancake in the second half after rarely leaving third gear to establish a 0-11 to 0-2 lead by the break.

Yet they still managed to win an All-Ireland quarter-final by six points without ever vacating a zone of salubrious comfort. And the conspiracy theorists out there will venture that far from being stale, tired or under-prepared, Fitzmaurice's men were merely keeping as much in the tank as possible and away from Dublin eyes before retiring to Killarney for the next four weeks, where All-Ireland champions are made.

"It was disappointing that we went away from the game-plan, away from what we do every night at training and what we've done in the last seven or eight months," he said.

"The Dublin lads have been the form team all year. Go back to the first weekend of the league in February. They are playing exciting football, have huge pace – very exciting.

"Jim Gavin is doing a great job with them and if we play the way we played in the second half, they'll wipe the floor with us.

"We are still in it after today, probably number four in a four-horse race. But we are still there and we are happy to be there."

Kerry weren't good but nor were they required to be. As a demonstration of their superiority, after Martin Dunne kicked Cavan into a lead on four minutes, they responded by scoring the next nine, before the Breffni county's second point on 30 minutes.

Game over.

Orchestrated

Within that, Donnchadh Walsh looked sharp, kicking three points. Colm Cooper was measured and patient and orchestrated an attack which never created a goal chance of any significance and bluechip men like Declan O'Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy have been more effective in Kerry jerseys.

On the bright side, David Moran made his first appearance in a Kerry jersey since the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Down, having suffered two cruciate ligament injuries, while the Kerry defence, under-engaged though they were, showed themselves to be disciplined and effective.

"I think that Kerry could beat Dublin because they have the guile and the experience," reckoned beaten Cavan boss Terry Hyland. "But what Dublin have and a lot of the other counties don't is speed. And sometimes speed is very hard to deal with out there on that pitch.

"It's a quiet bus going down to Kerry this evening – no point saying otherwise," reckoned Fitzmaurice. "It was a malfunction. Simple. Often if you malfunction in August you don't get out of it. We've a game in four weeks to put it right.

"We are in a semi final," he concluded, "and will not be given a snowball's hope in hell against Dublin now."

Be prepared for lots of that over the next four weeks.

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