Posted by Daragh Ó Conchúir

The Dublin-Kerry semi-final is unlikely to be the springboard for a new trend in football because teams are trying to win

Paul Mannion goal Dublin v Kerry

It has been a long time since there was such a positive response to a football match as what was witnessed after the Dublin-Kerry semi-final. It was a thoroughly entertaining affair, tremendous to watch, with great skill, magnificent scores and more twists and turns than a road in the Alps.

It was far from perfect though. The defensive work was pretty poor. I can sense the stiffening of backs from here but even in the days of catch and kick, when it was 14-on-14 in set outfield positions, half of a team had a defensive job. You would have to say the defensive players failed drastically in this game.

It is incomprehensible that defending isn’t viewed as a skill, that hard work, discipline and athleticism are only valued in an offensive sense. Good defending is often thrown into the same bucket as third-man tackling, jersey-pulling and other so-called cynical pursuits that have been part of the game since the ‘good old days’.

Ultimately though, a team wins and a team loses. If any team possessed the talent to go toe-to-toe with Dublin it was Kerry and they gave Jim Gavin’s men the fright of their lives. The fact it was such a rapid-fire game always made a margin that was in no way reflective of what had happened before, possible.

Of course, Kerry were not quite as gung-ho as their opponents, even if two of their normal water-carriers, Paul Galvin and Donncha Walsh were getting forward for an unusual amount of scores. Kerry just have better forwards than anyone else, with three footballers of the year starting and another coming off the bench.


Colm Cooper was magnificent in this encounter. The Dr Crokes man isn’t convinced that this game for the ages will herald a new dawn.

“I think the teams matched up really well” says Cooper. “Both teams play that brand of football and Mayo play something similar. Sometimes, when the All-Ireland champions come along, people change to whatever style they have so it will be interesting to see.

“I’m not too sure that it will but it’s great to watch. Dublin and Mayo have been really exciting at different times. Time will tell if it’s gonna have an impact. Teams might become more offensive. I’m not 100% that they will.”


Mickey Harte has been devising All-Ireland-winning tactics from minor to senior, via U21, for 15 years now. He has enjoyed Dublin’s high-risk approach but doesn’t think any other team is playing in that manner. Not even Kerry and Mayo.

What’s more, he is of the opinion that Dublin will need to evolve and pay some heed to defending properly if they are to continue progressing.

“I think people will play to suit their own strengths and Dublin have decided all year that they’re going to play a very offensive game” states Harte. “They know they can get enough scores. There’s a higher risk to that game than any other but they’re prepared to do that.

“People say that Mayo and Kerry didn’t play a sweeper but I think they did play a sweeper at times in their games. Where they’ve got the name of being an offensive side as well I think they have more of a mind to defending with that, as with the placing of Keith Higgins at centre half-forward (by Mayo).

“He’s not there to be an out-and-out creative centre half-forward, he’s out there to give extra help to the defence, as well as being a force going forward from deep with his pace. That suggests they’d be conscious of defending as well.

“I don’t think we’ll see a real move to that style. Everybody takes pieces of a game they see in any given year and they try to mould it into their team play with the players at their disposal and that’s the way it’ll be.

“I think Dublin have got to realise they conceded three goals in a short space of time (against Kerry) and they have to have a mind to why that happened and what would they do to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. So no matter their offensive skills, I think they’re really going to have to think about defending as well.”


Kildare forward, Johnny Doyle has been plying his trade at the top level for a similar length of time to Harte and has played a number of systems under four different managers, from Mick O’Dwyer to Kieran McGeeney.

Doyle reckons that the winning style of play will become fashionable for a time but the bottom line is the result.

“Teams will always try to copy the team at the top” Doyle says. “We saw from Donegal last year, whether you want to call it negative football or not, it was successful. Regardless of what anyone tells you, both teams are going out to win and if they entertain along the way, so be it, but they’re not there to entertain.

“I spoke to a hurling man from Cork after the hurling All-Ireland and his thing was it was great entertainment but the hurling wasn’t great. I don’t study hurling and wouldn’t know it inside-out but I thought it was great as a neutral to watch. So it depends on your perspective.”

The fact is that Dublin possess a certain type of player that enables them to play this fast-and-loose style. To date, it has proved successful, although it has led to serious criticisms of their full-back line – the only full-back line in the country that is totally exposed to one-on-one situations with quality ball coming in.

You would very much doubt that this Dublin team will be playing the same way in five years. Meanwhile, it can be said with a fair degree of certainty that Waterford and Leitrim won’t be playing that way next year, not to mind Cork, Tyrone, Meath or Roscommon.

As Johnny Doyle says, the job is to win. Being a losing team in the best All-Ireland final ever is worthless. Winning the worst one ever played would do most footballers that ever laced a boot.


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