Wednesday 19 September 2018

Creaking Kingdom must reshuffle and heal scars to have shot at Sam

Dublin 2-18 Kerry 0-13

The Dublin team celebrates with the League trophy Photo: Sportsfile
The Dublin team celebrates with the League trophy Photo: Sportsfile

The only consolation for Kerry is that they're not the first team of league challengers to venture into Dublin's Croke Park den only to have their dreams and aspirations plucked part, ruthlessly.

But this wasn't Derry (in 2014) or Cork (last year). This was Kerry, supposedly the chief pretenders to the Sky Blues' All-Ireland throne.

And they ended up being beaten by 11 points.

True, this only turned into a double-digit demolition job in the last ten minutes ... but even before the hour mark and perhaps even before they were reduced to 14 men, you could spy myriad signs that Kerry aren't remotely so well positioned as we presumed before throw-in.

If you're Éamonn Fitzmaurice or wearing green-and-gold glasses, perhaps the most glaring lesson here is that a Kerry team populated by so many thirtysomethings doesn't have the athleticism to live with these relentless Dubs. They started with seven men over 30, and an eighth (Darran O'Sullivan) who will hit that landmark next month.

But it was a particularly difficult afternoon for their two most venerable stagers, Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O'Mahony.

The former started reasonably well but then Bernard Brogan turned the screw in the run-up to half-time. It wasn't just that Brogan finished with 0-4, but the manner in which he outfielded Ó Sé (for his second point) and left his marker in his slipstream (for his fourth) as well as creating two second- half goal chances, one converted.

Brogan, at 32, is no spring chicken ... but he underlined here how difficult it can be to survive at this rarefied level when you're turning 36.

O'Mahony will be that age when Kerry open their Munster SFC defence against Clare or Limerick in June ... but he'll be suspended on the back of yesterday's straight red, and this was the second recent final showdown against Dublin that he has failed to finish, following on from last September's black card.

In defence of the Kingdom, you cannot deny the depth of quality footballers that still reside in Fitzmaurice's dressing-room; or that they'll be a more potent force once James O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney are restored to fitness; or that a fit-again Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley would bolster their options in the middle-third battleground.

But they needed to beat Dublin yesterday, if only to offer psychological reassurance ahead of a potential showdown next August.

Under Fitzmaurice they have now lost six of their seven collisions with Jim Gavin's Dublin, and all five of their meetings in Croke Park.

On this evidence, surgery and the injection of youth are prerequisites if they're to reverse that trend ... but can they erase the mental scars?

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