Friday 24 November 2017

Paul Curran: This team compares with the best ever

Dublin’s Brian Fenton in action against Johnny Buckley of Kerry at Croke Park yesterday
Dublin’s Brian Fenton in action against Johnny Buckley of Kerry at Croke Park yesterday

It certainly reached the excitement levels of 2011 and 2013 and this final had moments of brilliance, despite the atrocious conditions. Dublin won their third title in this decade to match the achievements of our great teams of the seventies.

It is an astonishing achievement in itself but when you throw in five provincial tiles and three national league wins in the last five seasons, it really proves that this current group will be rightly remembered as the greatest.

As Dubs we should all sit back and enjoy what these lads are producing year after year and with the age profile of the group on the young side we could see them go on and win a lot more.

For the moment, let's just savour this latest victory over the defending champions and try and pick though the important moments which shaped this latest victory.

For a start Dublin totally controlled the game right from the throw-in and never allowed their opponents to build any sort of momentum from start to finish.


It was a very comfortable three-point victory built on a very sound defence and a forward line that looked extremely threatening without ever getting the scores that would have wrapped the game up long before the final whistle.

For me, the defence has been outstanding all year and in particular Philly McMahon, who is surely the favourite to be the team's Player of the Year. Yesterday, he completely snuffed out the threat of Colm Cooper, who never managed a single score in the entire game.

He was backed up by the excellent Jonny Cooper, who also managed to keep James O'Donoughue from influencing the game, and with those two key Kerry forwards on the back foot it was no surprise that they only managed to kick nine points in the entire game.

The Kerry half-forward line too was non-existent for most of the game and spend large chucks of it on the back foot as James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey powered forward at every opportunity. I was surprised to see Cian O'Sullivan lining out in his position after the injury scare but his presence in the team cannot be overstated.

He got though an amount of work yesterday and his reading of the game separates him from his peers. He was never going to last the game but put in a huge shift and contributed heavily to the victory.

The writing was on the wall at half time, with Kerry only managing to kick four points in total and I can't remember the last time that a Kerry forward line looked so inept and devoid of ideas. But credit the Dubs defenders, who were terrifically disciplined on a difficult day to keep a solid foot.

I always felt that a goal would be a critical score but that never materialised, even though all of the goal opportunities were created by Dublin. But a great save from Brendan Kealy and the butt of the post denied Dean Rock and Brian Fenton match winning scores.

With the scores locked at four points each with ten minutes to the break and with both teams operating a very defensive system, it was the Dubs who managed to get the all-important scores and open up what looked like a very comfortable lead.

Bernard Brogan, Jack McCaffrey, Paddy Andrews and Philly McMahon all pointed to push ahead by four points and even though there was still 35 minutes to play it was clear Kerry were in trouble.

It needed to change quickly in the second half and with the introduction of Darren O'Sullivan to bring some much-needed penetration, the scores seem to come a little easier.

I think with the conditions Kieran Donaghy should have been brought into the game earlier but when he eventually arrived Dublin were in complete control and were able to minimise his influence.

He did have a penalty claim waved away late in the game but David Coldrick was close to the action and decided to let play continue. Donaghy was central to Kerry's only goal opportunity late in the game as he won a throw-up and spotted Killian Young free in front of goal but Young fumbled and the chance was lost.

At that stage of the game a goal would have brought the sides level with just a few minutes to play but Dublin broke up the field with lightning pace and Alan Brogan was able to kick the insurance score.

The defeat will hurt Kerry players and supporters but history has shown us that they will be back and better prepared and with players coming through from the last two winning minor teams it would be very foolish to think that they are finished.

Yesterday they didn't perform to the levels that they demand of themselves but with Dublin the team to beat, I think that Kerry are the only team that can consistently challenge them over the next few years.

So where to now for this Dublin team? Well for starters they will rightly enjoy the next few weeks and look back at the last five years with immense pride. The trophies just keep on coming and it is hard to see any other team other than Kerry preventing them from winning a few more before the decade comes to an end.


With players like Brian Fenton - who was brilliant yesterday in his first All-Ireland final - and John Small, Conor McHugh, Cormac Costello, Eric Lowndes, Davy Byrne and many more yet to reach their potential, the immediate future is very bright indeed.

Finally, congratulations to Jim Gavin and his backroom team on another amazing victory. Knowing Jim he is already thinking of 2016 and the planning will begin almost immediately.

For the rest of us, let's just enjoy our greatest group of players creating their own piece of history.

A little biased whinge to finish off the year. The Today FM best fifteen players of the last fifteen years was announced last week and to have only one outfield Dublin player on the team is a joke.

Can anyone seriously argue that Dermot Connolly and Bernard Brogan are not good enough to be on that team? Anyway I am sure the two boys won't be phased by it and will continue to produce outstanding displays over the coming years.

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