herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Paul Curran: Worst All-Ireland final in a long time but Kerry are worthy winners

Kerry joint captains, Fionn Fitzgerald, left, and Kieran O'Leary lift the Sam Maguire Cup after victory over Donegal, All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014
Kerry joint captains, Fionn Fitzgerald, left, and Kieran O'Leary lift the Sam Maguire Cup after victory over Donegal, All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014
Kerry joint captains, Fionn Fitzgerald, right and Kieran O'Leary lift the Sam Maguire Cup with teammates after victory over Donegal, All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014
Kerry supporters celebrate after victory in the All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014
A a young Kerry supporter looks on as Kerry's James O'Donoghue lifts the Sam Maguire cup after victory over Donegal, All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014
Kerry's Marc O'Se with his nephew Neil, 3, in the Sam Maguire Cup after victory over Donegal, All Ireland Football Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 21/9/2014

It was the worst All-Ireland final in a very long time but it still had us all captivated until the very end and I suppose it was no surprise that Kerry finished as All-Ireland champions.

I predicted last week that they would win yet another title and it will go down as a remarkable achievement considering their staring point at the beginning of the season.

Kerry, for most people, were gone and not just for this year but for the forseeable future. But they have proved yet again that they are the greatest football county in the history of the GAA and one can never write them off at anytime. When it comes to finals, they are extremely difficult to beat.

This decider will go down as the worst in living memory but it didn't come as any surprise because what we ended up with was two teams who were ultra-defensive from the throw-in and neither team were coached to throw caution to the wind and win the game on the front foot.

Donegal have patented the new defensive system and unfortunately for the traditionalist and Gaelic football itself they have changed the game to a more negative spectacle which is poor entertainment but fascinating nonetheless.

Remarkable

For a county like Kerry to go in at half-time in an All-Ireland final with only four scores on the board is quite remarkable, but they have learned over the years how important it is to win the game first and worry about the performance later.

Kerry are the most successful county in the game and they are a very proud county who believe they can win the All-Ireland every single year.

They have, however, had to change their game completely and change the mindset and it is to their credit that they have managed to come back and win this year's championship.

The fact that they won a dog-fight against a dogged team set up to stifle them tells us all we need to know about a county that believe they can always find a way no matter what the circumstances.

They are the ultimate champions and although it is hard to see them dominating this decade they still managed to win with eight or nine players playing in their very first final.

That would suggest that the talent is there to go on and compete for more titles but the fact that the final itself was a poor affair might turn out to be the opposite.

It really was a poor affair with both teams set up to concede little and that meant that the attacking play was sub-standard.

Have we ever seen Kerry score just a miserable four scores in an opening half and still be in the game? It is all the more remarkable when their first score came in the opening minute and it is basically down to the Donegal tactics that allowed them to stay in contact.

Teams either live or die by their tactics and Donegal lost this All-Ireland because they were far too reliant on the system that brought them success a couple of seasons ago.

Their system is based on stopping the opposition operating offensively but there is another part of the game that they have neglected over the past number of years.

A team needs to outscore the opposition and Kerry were able to do this as well as minding their own house.

The one regret that Jimmy McGuinness will have is that he has never allowed his forward division to express themselves and has used his best asset, Michael Murphy, in a more defensive role in his time in charge.

Let's be frank here when saying that Murphy is potentially one of the greatest forwards that has played the game but we have rarely seen him play in his natural position on the edge of the square.

There is not a man in the country at present who has the ball-winning ability he has and, as we saw a couple of years ago against Mayo in the final, he has the ability to win his own ball on the edge of the square and get the important scores.

Expansive

Donegal people, of course, are delighted to have won their second title a couple of years ago but the question is whether they should have pushed on and won another one with a more expansive game. It is unlikely that we will see this team back in another final.

For Kerry this is yet another win but one feels that this title more than any other will be celebrated to the death. A team that was given no chance managed to prove us all wrong.

Huge credit to Éamonn Fitzmaurice, who went about his business after taking a lot of body-blows but stuck to his guns and made a team made up of rookies believe they could do it.

It will go down as one of the greatest wins in Kerry's illustrious history and who could argue that they are quite simply the team to beat going in the next season.

A strange year it was, but it is no surprise that Sam is heading south yet again. The Keery boys know how to win All-Irelands.

Kerry won their first All-Ireland Minor Football Championship since 1994 when they beat Donegal 0-17 to 1-10 in yesterday's final at Croke Park.

Jack O'Connor's team appeared to be cruising towards the crown when a converted long-range free from goalkeeper Shane Ryan put them six points up with 10 minutes to play.

But Donegal, managed by Declan Bonner, hit back with a slick goal from Jamie Brennan and they got the gap down to a point. However, the Kingdom steadied the ship and eventually won by four, hitting three unanswered points in the final three minutes.

Kerry have struggled to land All-Irelands at underage level since the 90s.

O'Connor, who led the Kingdom to three Sam Maguire wins in the last decade, was drafted in to resuscitate their hopes.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News