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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Dubs shifted gears like the well-oiled machine we know

Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien. Photo: Sportsfile

Ten minutes into the second half, with twenty-five minutes left to play in Saturday's SFC final replay, Kerry's Seán O'Shea lofted the ball high into the sky from about 40 metres out.

When it sailed between the posts, Kerry, having absorbed Dublin's early second-half blitz, were trailing by a single point, 0-13 to Dublin's 1-11.

We were into the final quarter of an epic tussle that had begun two weeks ago and neither team looked like it was about to give way.

In boxing, these final furlongs are called the "championship rounds". Minutes when endurance, stamina and concentration are tested to destruction.

On Saturday, Dublin withstood the pressure with dramatic aplomb.

As the clock ticked down, the Boys in Blue left Kerry trailing in their wake.

But this wasn't a rout. Simply a steady erosion of Kerry's belief and morale.

As the Roman poet Ovid once put it: "Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence."

When referee Conor Lane blew a long final whistle and held out his arms to signal 'no more', Dublin had won by 1-3.

It hadn't been easy but history had been made.

When posed difficult questions in their two September encounters with Kerry, Dublin had eventually found the answers.

Jim Gavin got it right. And his players shifted through the gears like a well-oiled machine. Vorsprung durch Technik.

It wasn't just "progress through technology" that saw this side achieve what no other senior football team has done by winning five All-Ireland titles in-a-row.

It was the superior edge they gave themselves in every aspect of their play.

Early in the game, when Kerry rained high balls into the Dublin goalmouth, Stephen Cluxton and his back line were not found wanting.

Throughout, Dublin were methodical, structured and assassin-like as they hunted down scoring opportunities.

They didn't kick a ball wide until the ninth minute of the second half. And had just four wides in the match, compared to a speculative but wasteful ten by Kerry.

With the teams level on ten points apiece at half-time, the sense was that a goal would be required to win this match.

It came quicker than expected and was delivered by a player whose name hadn't been on the printed starting team-sheet.

It was a surprise when Eoin Murchan started the match in midfield in place of the announced Michael Darragh Macauley.

And it was a thrill when he started the second half with a blistering solo run and got an unstoppable shot away with a couple of Kerry players snapping at his heels like greyhounds at a coursing event.

But it wasn't all one-way traffic.

This was high-skill, high-impact, high-drama end-to-end football and Kerry's verve and virtuosity deserved more than a consolation prize.

"We came to win," said manager Peter Keane.

On another day, they might have won.

But on Saturday Dublin were relentless and gloriously triumphant.

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