Monday 20 November 2017

Coman Goggins: This crop of Dublin players thrive on ruling over the kingdom

Dublin's Brian Fenton celebrates in front of Hill 16 after the game
Dublin's Brian Fenton celebrates in front of Hill 16 after the game

SAM Maguire is back in Dublin for the third time in five years and the foundations for a historic victory were laid by a magnificent defensive display, which completely neutralised Kerry’s much-vaunted attack.

Jim Gavin got his match-ups right on the money and to limit the reigning champions to just nine points in 70 minutes of football is outstanding.

The stand-out duel for me was Philly McMahon picking up Colm Cooper and Philly took him on a tour of Croke Park and reduced his creative influence.

His inspirational point was one of the highlights of the day and as a Dublin supporter, you want to see the Gooch 80-90 yards from our goal. That suited us perfectly.

Philly took Gooch out of the game completely and on the flip side, he stormed into the match himself. He was an option going forward and that was a big boost for Dublin.

As a former corner-back, you do not want to see wide open spaces in front of you with the possibility of being exposed. The pressure out the field was phenomenal and they gave the defenders a great chance.

Kerry were forced on the backfoot and it meant they couldn’t kick quality ball inside. As a result, the Kerry full-forward line didn’t really impact the game or threaten Stephen Cluxton, so defensively we got things spot on.

Cian O’Sullivan’s miraculous display helped lay the foundations for victory and whoever worked the magic on his hamstring over the past two weeks deserves massive credit. He’s the glue that holds the defence together.

For anyone to have stepped in at No 6 would have been a huge ask and Cian starting the game seemed to give Dublin a massive boost psychologically also.

We began on a real high and maintained it throughout. And his positioning allowed the Dubs deal with the threat of Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue and the low ball they were trying to play in.

The best defence is a good offence and Jim will have been delighted with the way his half-backs James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey bombarded forward to support the attack at every opportunity.

I think since the drawn game against Mayo they’ve had a sit down and reassessed a lot of things.

McCaffrey and McCarthy were putting the brakes on when they were going forward a month ago, but yesterday they pushed on and they were huge attacking outlets.

They were hitting Kerry at pace and putting the Kerry half-forward line on the back foot right from the off. McCarthy in particular was outstanding today and his work rate was tireless.

And what of young Brian Fenton? I said in Thursday’s column that I thought he might have a big final and for him to be first-choice midfielder in his rookie season is quite extraordinary.

He came on in leaps and bounds from the drawn game against Mayo an d he’s surely in line for an All Star on the basis of yesterday’s tremendous display.

I’m delighted for Jim Gavin, especially after the criticism directed towards him following last year’s Donegal defeat.

People said he wasn’t as tactically astute as the other top managers but I think his meticulous preparation was rewarded yesterday.

To have won eight out of the nine competitions he has contested is unbelievable and it speaks volumes about the calibre of individual he is, and the standards he demands from his players.

On the other hand, I would question some of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s substitutions. There’s no doubting the class of Paul Galvin but he has seen very little championship action this year and it’s hard come in at that level.

Many called for the earlier introduction of Kieran Donaghy but I don’t think it would have made much difference. Dublin dealt well with his threat and Rory O’Carroll has proved himself up to his challenge time and time again.

It was very surprising that both Paul Geaney and James O’Donogue, who had five points from play between them, were both taken off when Kerry needed scores. Their poaching instincts could have manufactured an all-important goal at the death.

It would have been a travesty if Dublin had somehow let their lead slip, as they had been the best side from start to finish. It was great to see my old team mate Alan Brogan kicking a key score at the finish.

Killian Young spilled when in possession in front of the Dublin goal and it was almost symbolic of the day that Brogan, the elder statesmen of the group, killed off the game with a super score after coming onto the field only 60 seconds before that.

I’ve been on the wrong end of some harrowing defeats by Kerry but this current crop seem to thrive on playing the green and gold.

I think it stems back to Pat Gilroy’s time in charge when he brought the Dubs to Killarney and they came away with a rare league win.

It was as if it sent a wave of belief through the side. They had beaten Tyrone, trumped Kerry and I think that manifested in the group and any mental block that was there, it was blown away.

There are exciting times ahead in Dublin and with so much talent within this youthful group, there could be more to come.

Jim Gavin could have created a monster and I hope the monster continues to roar.

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