All-Ireland final replay brings fresh challenges for Dublin and Kerry

AFTER JOE CANNING’S free deep into stoppage-time drew Galway level in the 2012 All-Ireland hurling final and forced a replay, it felt like a loss for the Kilkenny players.

The rematch was three weeks away and having been seconds away from lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup, the Cats found it hard to shake off the sense of anti-climax. 

Brian Cody, using all his powers of persuasion, implored his squad to look at things differently. Tommy Walsh recalled his words the GAA national coaching conference last year.

Walsh remarked: “Cody was saying: ‘Lads, you have to wait three weeks to play in an All-Ireland final. Think about it, go back to when you were a young lad, you’d wait three months, you’d wait three years, you’d wait 30 years for the chance to play in an All-Ireland final for Kilkenny in front of 80,000 people.

“This is what you dreamed of. You’re going back training with the lads, you’re going to have great craic now for the next three weeks.

“So we went into the meeting feeling sorry for ourselves and we came out thinking we were the luckiest lads in the world — thank God Barry Kelly blew Jackie (Tyrrell) for that free! People ask: ‘How has he never had a psychologist with Kilkenny?’ Sure, he was a psychologist.”

Kilkenny cruised to victory in the replay, prevailing by 11 points. 

Both Jim Gavin and Peter Keane will have delivered a similar message to their squads as Cody did seven years. In the meantime, the two men have plenty to work on before Saturday week.

Sean O’Shea pulled off a shooting masterclass on Sunday.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It’s often the case that the team who learns the most from the drawn game and can bring something a little bit different will prevail on the second day out. The Dublin management team went to ground in the immediate hours after the drawn 2016 final with Mayo, dissecting their poor showing and strategising for the unexpected two weeks block of training. 

“They’ll have video – I’d say Dublin will get on that (straight away),” said Stephen Rochford, Mayo boss that year, on the AIB GAA podcast.

“I remember in 2016 they were on top of it while we were still travelling. It took us into Tuesday or Wednesday before we got going. Dublin will recalibrate very, very quickly based on geography. 

“Physically it’ll be about getting through Wednesday night, then doing a bit next weekend and then looking to try and hit the ground running next Saturday.”

Gavin rang the changes for the replay three years ago, dropping former Footballers of the Year Michael Darragh Macauley and Bernard Brogan, plus defender Davy Byrne in favour of Mick Fitzsimons, Paddy Andrews and Paul Mannion. Paul Flynn switched from half-forward to midfield to accommodate the extra forward and Dublin prevailed by 1-15 to 1-14.

Dublin are masters are learning from their mistakes and adapting during half-time in games. They’ll have studied the drawn game in great detail by now and hatched a plan to counteract how Kerry cut them open at the back for a handful of clear goal chances, so the Kingdom will need to bring something unexpected.

That may involve throwing Tommy Walsh in from the start. The prospect of James O’Donoghue reappearing on the 26-man panel would give the Kingdom another punch off the bench. 

Michael Darragh Macauley and David Moran compete for a kick-out in the air.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Rochford feels their young players will benefit enormously from going toe-to-toe with the champions and coming out unscathed.

“This reminds me of 2016 in a Mayo context,” said Rochford. “Dublin had played really poorly, much poorer than they played (on Sunday). They had only scored 11 times, 2-9, and a lot of people felt around Mayo that was definitely our opportunity gone.

“And what it definitely did was that as much as you’re talking and preparing and instilling that belief into the group, there’s nothing like experiencing it. The Killian Spillanes, the Jack Barrys, the Gavin Crowleys – I think it was 10 guys there who wouldn’t have played even in the 2014 final.

“They’ll have said, ‘Holy God, we can have a right cut at these guys.’ It may not play out like that but I guarantee you, when they got on the train down to Kerry, they’ll be thinking, ‘We’ll get stuck into these fellas again.’”

What changes will Dublin be eyeing up this time? 

None of their substitutes scored for the second game in succession and that might be enough to convince Gavin to shake things up. The narrative has shifted to suggest that Kerry now have the stronger bench, with Walsh, Killian Spillane and Jack Sherwood all making hay when they were introduced. 

Dublin hadn’t anywhere near as much of an impact off the bench as Kerry did. That said, Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly did win some crucial turnovers but neither man scored and the latter shot a wide, while Paddy Small left three scoring chances behind him.

Gavin must have had some difficult conversations with Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O’Gara and Rory O’Carroll who all failed to make the matchday squad. He’ll now have to convince the trio they’re back in the running to make the 26 for the replay.

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Bernard Brogan meets fans at Dublin’s open training session.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Connolly situation – where he returned mid-summer and was Dublin’s third sub on against Kerry – would have been tricky for Gavin to navigate last week. Brogan and O’Gara wouldn’t be human if they weren’t irritated at Connolly jumping ahead of them in the pecking order, even if they are longtime team-mates of the St Vincent’s star.

Given their advancing years and lack of game-time this year, Brogan and O’Gara are likely to retire at the end of this season. Heading into Sunday it looked like they wouldn’t kick another ball for Dublin. Now, all of a sudden, they might yet have a say in the 2019 season.

Eric Lowndes too would have been frustrated to see Peader O’Cofaigh Byrne and Darren Daly make the final squad ahead of him, while veterans Andrews, Philly McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan didn’t see a minute of action – although the latter is reported to be carrying an injury. Sean Bugler is another useful half-forward who stands a chance of making the substitutes list for the rematch.

John Small was forced off after 57 minutes on Sunday with a hand injury but it’s unclear yet if it will put his participation in the replay under jeopardy. Despite his first-half red card, Jonny Cooper is likely to be entrusted to start the replay. Fitzsimons will probably be the man picking up David Clifford this time after he did well on the Fossa star in the second-half, with Cooper potentially being assigned to take Paul Geaney.

That’s where Kerry could throw a curveball by starting Walsh, bringing Geaney to the half-forward line and forcing a Dublin rethink.

Macauley could be sacrificed yet again if Gavin decides to push James McCarthy onto midfield and bring in Eoin Murchan, who impressed after he replaced Small. If Small isn’t fit to start, then Murchan is an obvious option to come in for the Ballymun defender.

“Kerry will now believe more than ever they can have a crack,” added Rochford.

“At the same time Dublin, for as long as I remember with this group, I’ve never seen them have a quieter second-half. Typically it’s their blow-out time and they’ll be disappointed with that.

“Yes, the Kerry extra man probably had a bit of a factor in that. I think it’s still certainly in Dublin’s favour.” 

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