Kerry are the second best team in Ireland… at the moment. This means that the rest are well behind the best team, Dublin.
Had Kerry beaten Dublin last Sunday in the National Football League Final then it would have been a shock. It is hard to believe to be writing about Kerry in such terms. The true story is that Dublin are so far ahead of the rest that it is difficult to foresee a defeat for them in 2016.
The league is done and dusted. Looking at Dublin so far this year, they seem to be only in second gear. I was hoping that Kerry would get a decent lead to see how Dublin would react. It is only when a team is behind and under threat do we see their real character.
Kerry may console themselves by saying that the game turned when Aidan O’Mahony was sent off. Although Kerry were only a point behind at this stage, they were still second best.
Aidan’s inter-county days are numbered. Mark O’Shea is also past his ‘sell by’ date. They have been terrific servants for their county but there always comes a time to put your hand on your heart and say “Mea culpa”.
O’Shea’s opponent, Bernard Brogan, scored four points from play. I remember many years ago playing against Dublin in McCaumhaill Park. McEniff lined me out at corner back. It was unfamiliar territory for me.
As I took up my position at the beginning of the game, I looked at the wall near the end line. I said to myself “my next move will be to the other side of the wall”. Sure enough it wasn’t long before I was standing behind that wall as a supporter.
It’s sad to watch an inter-county player struggling in his twilight years. The heart is willing but the legs can’t keep up. It’s a horrible feeling. Fortunately for me I got out, or was rather, put out, before I suffered too much.
I’m not a massive fan of either Kerry or Dublin. As a youngster, I loved Kerry football. Dublin are Dublin and the 31 'culchie' teams in Ireland always take delight in beating them.
I cannot deny Dublin’s superb attitude, ability and aptitude though. Their discipline has to be admired.
Once upon a time Dublin liked to mix it. Kerry, and especially Kieran Donaghy, tried to agitate the Dublin players last Sunday. Donaghy ran around the park like the school yard bully pushing the Dublin players about, just because he is bigger than them. They didn’t react.
Dublin have learned a lot this past few years, especially in respect of defence. They now too get players back behind the ball when not in possession. They do not leave their defenders isolated one-on-one on forwards.
It is very obvious that there is massive competition for places on the Dublin team. There was an incident where Philly McMahon was having an argument with one of his own Dublin selectors. His manager Jim Gavin took him off straight away.
Gavin has plenty of very good subs who are equally as good as the lads on the field. If a player isn’t going well, he too will be taken out, as Diarmuid Connolly was last Sunday.
Dublin sent out a clear message last Sunday that they are the team who has set the standards. It’s up to the rest of the country to catch them.
One team that has ambitions of doing just that is Tyrone. They easily pushed aside an improving Cavan team in the Division 2 decider in Croke Park last Sunday. Tyrone were just physically and technically too strong for Cavan.
I have read and heard a lot about Seanie Johnston. He is supposed to be one of the shining lights in Cavan and indeed Gaelic football. I believe he touched the ball only once in the first half and that was when he took a free.
Mickey Harte has his team well organised but they still lack the scoring threat to be considered serious challengers for All-Ireland success. I do feel they are certainly one of the favourites for the Ulster title, along with Donegal and Monaghan.
Tyrone will be delighted to have won this game because it gives the team a terrific morale boost as we enter the championship season. Cavan too will be quite content to have contested this Division 2 final because it gave them a chance to measure their ability against a very good team.
They have a bit to go yet though. They were often caught in possession and carried balls into tackles. Some of their players are very light in stature. They played some nice football at times but unfortunately winning nowadays isn’t about playing nice football.
Cavan will play in Division 1 next season and will find it difficult to stay there unless they bulk up and lose the naivety which they displayed against Tyrone. If they can survive, the experience of playing the top teams will serve to better their game.
Unfortunately, Dublin look champions already and the rest of the country will scrap for the pieces. It’s going to be a long summer.