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Dessie lauds of his side character in classic

'Somehow they summoned the energy from somewhere'

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NEW VOICE: Dublin manager Dessie Farrell encourages his players. Pic: Sportsfile

NEW VOICE: Dublin manager Dessie Farrell encourages his players. Pic: Sportsfile

NEW VOICE: Dublin manager Dessie Farrell encourages his players. Pic: Sportsfile

You got the sense from Dessie Farrell on Saturday evening that he had quickly grown weary of being "new Dublin manager Dessie Farrell' and all that had entailed over the past six-and-a-half weeks.

The press conferences. The meetings.

The careful construction of a backroom team and all its assorted accoutrement.

On Saturday evening, he seemed content to be simply, finally, Dublin manager Dessie Farrell, immersing himself in the brass tacks of winning football matches.

And he nearly pulled it off, too.

As per Farrell's own revelation in his first post league match press debrief, he had conducted just three full training sessions with his currently-bloated squad.

And yet the team looked like they'd never been away.

Maybe that was down to Kerry.

Secretly, we all suspected that his team selection was so heavily weighted with experience due to the identity of Saturday's opposition; a Kerry team who Farrell himself name-checked as being Dublin's primary threat over the term of his tenure.

A team still bristling from their missed chance of last September. One with more talent than medals.

Farrell is understandably keen to cultivate some of the younger talent in Dublin yet the team that started his first league game as manager was older in age than last year's All-Ireland final selection.

There were no league debutants, although Aaron Byrne and Dan O'Brien made theirs off the bench, so the only natural conclusion was that Farrell's stated intention of finding areas of growth in his newly-inherited squad was outweighed by an unsaid imperative not to cede any ground to Kerry.

"Obviously you want to try get out of the blocks fairly lively and it was also a question of the players that were available to us as well," he explained afterwards.

Mixture

"But we were happy to try some new players tonight, some fellas who may not have seen much game-time over the last couple of years and then one or two newbies as well.

"So it was a mixture of experience and youth and I think it served us well at the end."

At half-time on Saturday, we noted how it was a feature of these Dublin/Kerry league games that they save the rowdy stuff for games in the Kingdom. As though Croke Park was too exposed a stage on which to get stuck into each other.

In that first half, David Clifford and Brian Fenton played as though there were marks on offer for artistic merit.

In the second, both struggled for oxygen.

There was plenty of fouling in the first half but it was mostly 'honest' fouling before the tactical imperative to transgress the rules came in the second half.

Seán O'Shea, James McCarthy and Niall Scully all spent stints of that first half receiving attention and temporarily replaced.

Yet if there was definitely blood on show, there was no thunder until the second half.

What is bound to please Farrell most this week was the continued deployment of the good habits the team developed in the latter half of the last decade.

Ciarán Kilkenny went to full-forward and pulled down a brilliant 'mark' as part of a late crescendo of Ciarán Kilkenny influence on the game.

Then the power-play came, yielding two quick points after squeezing oand winning three Kerry kickouts in-a-row.

Then, on 60 minutes, the hand signal went up from Brian Fenton, leaving everyone in Croke Park in no doubt that Dublin would cradle and probe and prod and tease until such time as they had a clear scoring opportunity.

Opportunity

The only question was whether Kerry would have sufficient time to generate a final opportunity of their own.

"It looked at that stage that the game was kind of sliding away from us a little bit," Farrell noted.

"There was sort of not much energy coming from our lads at that particularly point in time.

"But somehow they summoned the energy from somewhere and showed great character going down the back straight to get their noses in front at the death."

Winning, Farrell stressed, wasn't the important thing.

But it went without saying that not losing was high on his list of priorities last week.

"The dynamic between players and new management and trying to bed that down and have that as robust as we possibly can, get our structures in place, get our processes in place," he said by way of summarising the multitude of aims he has set for the next couple of months.

"So it's all very new to both parties at this point in time.

"We're hoping the league will serve us well, but probably even more importantly is in terms of the shape and look of the team as we head into the summer, very interesting to see what new talent emerges through the league for us."

Before he left, Farrell was asked the sort of question only a first year manager gets asked: had he enjoyed the night?

"I think what pleased me most was being able to get out on the pitch with the lads and get to the business at hand," he admitted.

"There's been a lot of talk and a lot of this type of thing (press conferences) over the last few weeks.

"And it's just great to get the lads back and start working on the practice ground and obviously the reason you do that is to play on nights like this."