Posted by Mickey Harte
Friday 26 August 2011
Looking back at last weekend’s semi-final there were positive and negatives for Jack O’Connor to take from Kerry’s win over Mayo.
At times they were vintage Kerry, especially when pulling away in the second half. They looked sharp but having said that Mayo probably felt they were in a good place at half-time. They survived the two early goal chances, which may well have been a bit of déjà vu from the 2006 final. They avoided that and they went ahead so I thought this was going to be very tough for Kerry.
I believed if Mayo were in touch at half-time then they could hang in there. I still felt Kerry would win but that the margin would remain tight. But when Mayo got their goal to bring the game alive, Kerry hit back within 90 seconds. That was an unfortunate situation to develop for Mayo.
It was only a half-chance and if it was anyone other than the Gooch then they would have been happy to knock it over the bar but he had the killer instinct. He knew they had just conceded a goal and it is time to step up again.
It was really a defiant goal, they didn’t really need a goal at that stage but he went for it. It shows what he is all about; lethal finishing. It was time to put out the fire and it showed the experience and know-how he has that he went for it.
But there were some difficulties at the back for Kerry, especially one on one. Andy Moran had a good day on Marc Ó Sé, who is invariably Kerry’s best defender. He created two good goal chances and that has to be alarming. Tomás Ó Sé had a good game, and I am sure Kerry were glad he had recovered while Paul Galvin helped turn the game too.
You could imagine the difficulties Kerry would have had without Tomás Ó Sé and Galvin to bring in so they are still dependent on a few key players to make things happen. If their final opponents can negate their influence that will go a long way towards securing a favourable result.
Mayo crafted some good goal chances and Aidan O’Shea drove through Kerry at one point so opportunities can be created against this Kerry defence. If a team puts those away it would take a lot up front to turn it around.
Kerry will be conscious that whoever they face in the final will be a seriously hungry team. You have to admire their resilience to be back so often in the final. You can’t doubt their hunger either. They have a serious desire to win.
Colm Cooper does deserve special mention after his influential performance. He is up there with the best and still has several years of his career to look forward to. In my view he has the potential to be the best forward ever to play football. He has got it all; vision, finishing, composure, time on the ball and he has worked on his right foot too so he is comfortable on that.
He is also capable of winning ball you would not expect a man of his stature to be able to do. For the goal on Sunday there were two defenders challenging for the ball but he managed to secure possession and finished with aplomb. As they say, you would pay the admission money alone just to see him.
Galvin was different class too when he came in. He was picking up the ball, he was controlled, he was spreading passes around and then popping up for scores too. It was vintage Paul Galvin. He also took an elbow and didn’t blink. If he did it to someone there would be huge furore around it. He is a much better player and individual than people like to label him.
I think he has to start the next day. He has too much to offer to leave him off the starting 15 heading into an All Ireland final. Other than the fact that he may not have the fitness levels to last the 70 minutes, then he will start.
Who Kerry will face will be decided on Sunday and having played Donegal and Dublin this year I have to say Dublin were a hotter handful. But it was an Ulster semi-final that we met Donegal in and they have obviously developed from that with a couple of good victories.
They beat Derry and then came out victors in an intense game against Kildare. Donegal have undoubtedly improved since we played them earlier in the summer. On the other hand, Dublin didn’t show in Leinster the form they showed against us. The question is are they on an upward trend or did they pick out a big performance against us?
I think Dublin have the greater experience, the greater all-round balance and a serious energy. Donegal’s victories have been built around high-energy football too and players sticking to the game-plan. I think it will be a low scoring game, with 14 or 15 points enough to win it. I believe Dublin are more capable of getting that tally.
It will be difficult for them as Donegal will swamp their defence but it will be equally hard, or even more so, for Donegal to get scores against a stubborn Dublin defence. I expect Sunday’s game to much more like Donegal-Kildare than our game against Dublin. That game will stand to Donegal but Dublin will adjust to their system by half-time. It may take them 35 minutes to get to grips with how clogged up things will be up front and how efficient Donegal are at getting bodies back but once Dublin absorb that pressure that they will have enough guile about them to push on for victory.
Dublin’s experience over the last number of years will be a distinct advantage. They have played at Croke Park all year so there is a lot in Dublin’s favour on Sunday. Some of Donegal’s new players haven’t felt the force of the Hill just yet so all those things they have to deal with and perform at their best level may well prove daunting.
It doesn’t appear that Donegal have a ‘Plan B’ as they have become so comfortable with the system they have been using all season. If things do start to go wrong they will stick with that system that has served them well to date. I don’t see them changing. They may make a few positional switches but you know what you are going to get with Donegal.
Dublin are maturing and they believe in their system too. There is a real team ethic that took a while to build but Pat Gilroy has it installed now. They have suffered setbacks but they know they must seize the opportunity when it arrives. They will believe a final place is there for them.
For too long, too many Dublin players have never played in an All-Ireland final so there is serious ambition there. I think it will be close but I expect Dublin to conjure up enough scores against the inevitable blockade they will face while Donegal will find it hard against a very mean Dublin defence.
My heart says Donegal as an Ulster man but my head says Dublin.
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