Dublin v Kerry – tactical talking points

The focus is now definitely turning towards Sunday’s second All-Ireland semi-final and so I’m delighted to welcome back Emmet Ryan of Action81.com into the guest slot to discuss the key tactical issues of this Dublin/Kerry showdown.

Dublin Kerry

Photo: GAA.ie

About Joe and the Gooch

One’s a lawyer and a pundit, the other’s one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Together, they fight crime. Oh wait, wrong preview. Joe Brolly’s claim last week that Colm Cooper doesn’t do the work of a centre forward is only half true. Certainly the Gooch won’t be mistaken for a traditional number 11 but that’s not the role Eamonn Fitzmaurice wants him to play. Kerry have a dearth of quality creators, particularly with Paul Galvin growing increasingly inconsistent as he ages. At club level, Cooper essentially has a free role to set up scores from all over the park. Fitzmaurice doesn’t have the ability to give Gooch such freedom but he recognises he’s the best option he has to drive their attack. Getting the most out of him in this role has however proved challenging and it’s not just down to the step up in competition. Cooper was barely involved in the Kerry attack in the second half against Cavan partially because of the restrictions put on him. Cooper’s objective as a creator is oddly reminiscent of Lar Corbett in his prime; he looks to go where he’s not supposed to go. By taking up unorthodox positions, Cooper can make the attack unbalanced and force defences to adapt to chaos. Kerry’s game is too structured to allow him to commit to such movements so instead he does his best creating off quick frees. Kerry need to loosen the leash slightly without unravelling their entire forward set-up.

It’s really about shot count

The shots scored/missed is the easiest stat to measure in Football and also the easiest to explain to the casual observer. The rather wonderful Don’t Foul website has done extensive research and found the average number of shots per 70 minutes for a county team is 27. Mayo, hey I know who’s reading this, put up 34 last Sunday compared to Tyrone’s 26. Dublin have averaged 39 shots per game through the summer. Suffice to say, that’s a lot. Jim Gavin’s charges have needed to post such gaudy totals as they have shot at 50 per cent all summer. That makes the rough arithmetic a little easier for Fitzmaurice. For every 2 shots he denies Dublin putting up, he can knock off a point. Naturally there are outlier performances but Dublin have rarely strayed from the average this season so it’s not entirely daft. Of course that brings up the natural question for any coach staring down Dublin…

How do Kerry stop Dublin creating?

Tyrone had the right idea…against Mayo. The half backs play a huge role in the creative game for Dublin. Ger Brennan, while not known as an attacker, plays a big role in the initial set up and Jack McCaffrey makes the left wing a threat for Dublin every time. McCaffrey’s runs also bring the diagonal ball threat into the game, particularly with Michael Darragh MacAuley and Ciaran Kilkenny working in tandem in the spine. You can’t chop off all a hydra’s heads but once Heracles (go away you and your Hercules spelling) found the right one he was grand. Kerry should see Dublin’s half backs as their best way to contain the arsenal.

And finally

I have a tradition of not formally announcing my pick until my preview column on Action81 goes up but Stevie Wonder can see what way I’m leaning here. For Kerry to overcome the odds, they must show a lock-down game in the middle third and build up a defensible lead before the final quarter. In terms of bench depth, this is not a fight. Dublin have a ton of it, Kerry don’t. Dean Rock, who may yet start, has been used as a closer for Dublin since the League Final and I would be stunned if Gavin doesn’t use him in a similar role on Sunday. Rock has the strength required to slot in for a ball-winner like Kevin McManamon or Eoghan O’Gara and the scoring touch to switch with Bernard Brogan or Paul Mannion. It’s his versatility that often sees him relegated to the bench. When you’re looking for a change-up, there may be no better option in the game.

This is Emmet’s Tactics Board preview of Sunday’s clash:

Emmet’s blog post on the time he was trapped in his flat because there was a bomb outside is up for an award. Vote for “Action81.com – Waiting for the boom…” here.

52 thoughts on “Dublin v Kerry – tactical talking points

  1. Interesting piece.When everyone thinks the Kingdom is asleep that’s when trouble is coming.I see Dublin being pushed all the way wouldn’t be surprised if mayo will be favourites for final if Dublin puts in bad performance.we shall see.Id like to see the Dubs in the final but in saying that i think Kerry needs more medicine for the heartache they caused us in previous finals.But there is something special about beating the Dubs in their own back yard with the hill full and on All Ireland final day as well mighty stuff.Up the Dubs 🙂

  2. Good stuff Emmet. Enjoyed the book, glad to see WJ giving you a slot, actually nice to see some analysis rather than usual muck on RTE and journalists..*yes, I am taking about you Mr.McGee and Mr.Breheny*
    Dublin for me on Sunday, pace, strength in depth and the loss of Young for Kerry will prove too much for the Yerras…Dublin by 5…minimum.

  3. I can’t disagree with any of the above. The one item not mentioned however is that it is Kerry, in Croke Park, in late August. A Kerry team that will remember that their playing-down-the-clock ball retention tactics in the 2011 final led directly to the Dublin goal that changed the momentum of that game. A Kerry team that will remember the very soft free awarded to Dublin in the dying seconds that Cluxton put over to win it. A Kerry team that has a shed out the back full of Celtic Crosses and the knowledge, experience and temperment to go with it.
    The last time a Kerry team was “in transition” as they are now was 1997. That day Darragh O’Shea was injured and they really only had Maurice Fitzgearld as a threat. We were the best team in the country having lost the previous final and played Offaly off the pitch in terrible conditions in the semi. We couldn’t lose. Yet still Kerry found a way to beat us. They never have prepared to peak in July or even early August. They prepare to peak when they really need it. For all the talk about our pathetic attempts in the 2004 final, not enough credit has been given to Kerry because I believe you could have picked an All Star team that day to play them and Kerry would still have ripped them asunder. Kerry have played 2 halves of football this year. The 1st half against Cork and the 1st half against Cavan. Both halves were good enough to win. That’s all. No fancy flashes of skill or blistering pace but just enough to win.
    I know that when you look at everything, e.g. pace, stamina, age, mobility, goal threat, bench, form, home advantage, crowd, individual match winners etc., it all points to a Dublin victory but I just think that Kerry will win out by 1 or 2 points. I obviously will be wrong but I can’t convince myself otherwise, even taking all of the above into consideration.

  4. Agree Alf. Just can’t see Kerry keeping up with Dublin for the 70 mins. They may start well like Tyrone did against us, but Dublin’s
    superior fitness and bench is bound to win out in the end. Dubs by 6+
    (Hope am I am wrong actually as I see Kerry as weaker opponents in the final)

  5. And lads lets not forget this is the Kerry team that came down to Castlebar in league and couldn’t play themselves out of a paper bag .But here they are on all Ireland semi final.You can never write them cute whores off.

  6. Lets put this one to bed quickly!! It’s NOT the Kerry team that came to Castlebar…..they were missing the majority of their key players that day…and we just about beat them!!

    They were missing Tomas O Se, Grifffin, Galvin, Declan O Sullivan, Gooch, and Donaghy!!!

    We beat them by 6 pts and we were at home. So, in no way can we look to the league match as an indication of where Kerry are at.

  7. Re: 1997 ….If’s, but’s and and’s…BUT if Sheridan hadn’t gone off injured at halftime with a hamstring injury there’s a good chance we would have won. McDonald missed frees into the Canal End that day that Shero would have put over with his bad foot,.

  8. I agree with what you are saying i was really just wanting to put point across that you can never write off a Kerry team

  9. For info, here’s the Kerry team, subs (and scorers) from that league game back in February: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher (0-1), J Buckley (0-1, ’45); M Geaney, D O’Sullivan (0-1), M O’Donoghue (0-2); J O’Donoghue (1-0), P Curtin, C Cox (0-1). Subs: BJ Keane for Cox, B Sheehan for Geaney, S O’Carroll for M O’Donoghue.

    Here’s Sunday’s team: Brendan Kealy; Marc Ó Sé, Mark Griffin, Shane Enright; Tomás Ó Sé, Peter Crowley, Fionn Fitzgerald; Anthony Maher, Johnny Buckley; Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper, Donnchadh Walsh; Darran O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, James O’Donoghue.

  10. David,

    Indeed they did. We made very ordinary players like Mike Hassett and Seamus Scanlon look like Paddy Bawn Brosnan that day. Trevor Mortimor, (who at that time was the best corner back and man marker in the country, bar none) should have been detailed to man mark Fitzgearld that day. Even if we had redued his influence by 40% that day it might have been enough to win.
    In hindsight we just weren’t cute enough or good enough to win on the day.
    This time, however, we have everything needed to win. And win we will.

  11. I find this one harder to call than most, a lot of people seem to be cock sure Dublin will win, im not convinced . Dublin have showed some weakness in the full back line all year against Cork i thought Cork should of played more basic high ball , Dublin seem suspect in this depot and in the fb line in general.

    Kerry still have class forwards, they have not just became ordinary footballers because theyve aged a biteen. Even though not named i expect Donaghy to at least come on and have an impact.

    There is massive hype about the young Mcaffery lad, he is no doubt a speedy merchant but does anyone else feel he runs into no mans land some of the time, i’m not sure his football brain has developed as fast he runs as of yet.Time will tell.

    Kerry to win and on the plus side it will make tickets a bit handier.

  12. I agree Sean i think it will be closer than people think.Mcaffery is a good player no doubt but in sure Kerry wont let him run the length of pitch and if they do there crazy.If Kerry can slow the ball down from the Dublin back line and stick to the Dublin forward line and put pressure on Cluxtons kick outs they will be there or there about.I thought Dublin were less than in impressive against Cork and missed a lot of scores both goals and points .

  13. It’s great to be able to sit back and watch this one unfold. Its a win – win for Mayo, a good performance by the dubs will prob see them win well and be favourites for the final, while Kerry will have to show their full hand in order to win so we’ll know what to expect in the final.
    Hope Kerry win, whenever we do win Sam it would be extra special to do it by beating Kerry – We owe them a few……

  14. I dont think it will be that close in the end, probably 4 point or so win for Dublin I think, barring a series of major injuries or mad referring decisions (both of which happened last week but probably ended up cancelling out).
    The facts on both teams dont point to anything else

  15. Darragh O’Sé played in the 1997 final. It was the 2004 final he missed through injury.

  16. I found an interesting stat on dont fowl web site.
    “Coming in to the game Mayo’s shooting had only faced pressure on 38% of shots. In this game Tyrone pressurized 61% of Mayo’s shots (14 of 23) which will be a factor in the poor weighting”
    Now either Mayo were just too goo for other defenses and made space for players to score or the teams we had played were too slack.Suppose you could look at it either way.

  17. Emmet, I’ve gone back and forth on this one…..one day Kerry, then I read another write up and go back to Dublin.
    I think my judgment is somewhat clouded by the desire to face Kerry in the final, rather than Dublin. Dont really know why, but I suppose just to banish the effin curse..I just think, this year, we match up better against Kerry all over the field. On the other hand, I don’t think we match up well against Dublin, except for the midfield where I think we can win and actually dominate.

    Having said that, Dublin have so much pace, do so much running, switch direction in a flash and therefore so many chances. I think you alluded to it in your piece above, they tend to fire off a lot of shots (a, however their conversion percentages are lower. Therefore cut down on the shots and its probable the conversion rate will drop too, which will put them young forwards under severe pressure.
    Kerry won’t have that shot rate, although against Cork they were up there with 33. Against Cavan somewhat lower at ~26…but their conversion rate was higher at 58. Therefore I expect them to improve here and be more economical than Dublin, for they will be more patient.
    I might change me mind again tomorrow, but the numbers don’t lie. Simples 😉

  18. What I think would be a great result for us this weekend would be a tough hard battle between Kerry and Dublin ending in a draw, with the replay the following Saturday!!

  19. I agree with the suggestion that Dublin deserve to be favorites on Sunday but I am also mindful that there is nothing Kerry like more than meeting a Dublin team wearing the favorites tag. I do not recall any occasion over the past 50 – 60 years when Dublin won when expected to do so. My memory may not be perfect but it did not happen too often.
    Listening to some commentators one would think that half a dozen Kerrymen would be using walking aids if not wheelchairs. Apart from Tomas O’Sé I do not think any of the Kerry team are in their mid thirties so I do not think that age is a factor.
    When we met them in the league we had only a few weeks training after the team holiday..I do not know when Kerry had started but they had freedom to start pre Christmas having had an early exit from the 2012 championship.
    Neither do I agree with commentators who suggest that past history should inhibit Mayo’s approach to a final against Kerry any more than recent wins by Mayo over the Dubs would inhibit the Dubs. James Horan has totally changed Mayo’s mental approach. In the past a Mayo team going into a big game would have been sitting ducks but James has changed all that so much that favoritism is now more welcomed than feared.

  20. I think it will be very similar to our game against Tyrone – Kerry will last the pace for a while and Dublin will run them off the pitch by the end of it. Its all set up for another Mayo v Dublin classic and lets hope we can sneak it yet again!

  21. Agree with puckout in the sense that its great to be able to sit back with sunday dinner and watch our opponents in waiting. Best case scenario would be a kerry win, i beileve dublin would be a much more difficult opponent on the basis of what alot of posters have alluded to. Saying that i firmly beileve it will be a dublin win by 6-8 points, i dont buy into this kerry “cute hoorism” and holding themselves back etc. Dublin will pull away in emphatic fashion in the 3/4 quarter, although i really hope im wrong.

  22. Question : We were 2nd semi last year and 06 and 04 after the replay. Think we were 2nd V Offaly in 97…late August, the day news broke re Diana death. Were we 1st or 2nd semi in 96 V Kerry and 89 V Tyrone?

  23. Definetly first in 1996, think we were first in ’89 but not 100% sure…i see where your goin with this alf!!!

  24. And not to forget that when Kilkenny last didn’t play in Croker was 1951 🙂

  25. Hahaha forgot about that one! Ara twas the same last year with deegan, we also had a loais reff in ’51. If we’re good eneough we’ll win it, and i think we will.

  26. I don’t have any science or analysis to back it up but my gut is that Kerry will win by a point or two. It would be good to get a crack at them in the final in any case and the ticket hunt would be that much easier too.

  27. Dublin will run Kerry ragged and will win by a double digit margin. At least Horan and the management team will get to fully focus on them and study them in detail with our semi out of the way.

  28. Some predictions:

    1.Kerry will win

    2.O Connor will start in All Ireland

    3.It will be one hell of a match in the All Ireland.

    4.Mayo will win the Minor Final/

    5. Tickets will be a bitch to get (not a prediction—-fact!)

  29. Huge talk of Dublin V Kerry, hardly any mention of a superb minor side. Corner forward D. Donnelly (I think) was excellent, a naturally gifted guy. Coen at centre back looks good too. Difficult to see anything but a win for Mayo minors in the final. No win at this level since ’85 its surprising the lack of mention on this site/ blog.

  30. I expect to meet Ros in the minor final and I suspect Rossoneri does too.
    Am I right in thinking you’re a Roscommon man.

  31. I’ve been away awhile and I realise that this is off topic. I just wanted to weigh in with my two cents on COC shoulder.

    Cillians shoulder is in tatters.

    Freeman stepped in and scores 2goals and 4 points . This was the first championship test for Mayo where the intensity was racheted to the max. Freeman passed the test with A stars. Hallejeuhah for Mayo! That’s what we should be talking about, not Cillians shoulder.

    Cillian is a great addition to this Mayo team and if he was good to go, he’d start. No bother.

    Bottom line Cillian’s shoulder is not good. Cillians shoulder is not anywhere near good. Mayo will need both of Cillian’s shoulders for many years to come. This Mayo “TEAM” (sometimes you got spell team big) has the potential to dominate our game for years to come. I believe that Mayo football is just emerging from the abyss and about to enter an era of total dominance. Lets sit back and enjoy the ride. No more talk of individuals. We must have learned from the barren years when we had brilliant flairy players, like MacDonald, Mortimor Connor etc, that for Mayo, that will end with face in hands on the penultimate day.

    This Mayo team is a serious team. From the starting men to the bench men chomping on the bit, to the leadership, each and everyone is an integral cog, to this new Mayo Machine.

    I would like to say to all who said nice things about my post about wet flags in lawns and graveyards. Thank you for your kind comments. You see my lovely wife had a picture framing weekend. She placed one of our wedding day photos on the hallway table. I got up at about six ish on that Sat morning and spotted it. It was a photo of me standing between my Father and Mother. We had our arms wrapped around each other and we were all smiling out. I am still here, Mam and Dad are gone on. The photo is removed for now. I’m not ready to appreciate that photo yet, but am glad to know that the picture is there. It got me thinking about Mayo football and what it meant to those who have gone before. That post resonated a little with some people and I got embarressed and I didn’t know what to say. Anyways, thankyou, enough said.

    I just believe in this Mayo team. I have been there for the falls of the past. I know what decimated hope feels like to the root. This Mayo team in total have the right bones to properly fill out the frames of the past. That’s one picture that will go straight up, front and centre.. That says it all.

    (Come On Mayo!!!)

  32. Id imagine that Roscommon will be in the final.I saw them against Kildare looked impressive.I think Kildare were favourites for that game.I also saw Tyrone minors play their last game which if memory serves me right it went to extra time.Don’t know if anyone else saw it but by got they have some dirty players.I was actually disgusted watching them worse than their senior counterparts.Anyway id expect more of the same from them on Sunday to try put the Roscommon lads off.But i think Roscommon will scrape a win.Great for Connaught if we have two teams in final.

  33. Joe,
    I see a lot of Mayo flags on graves in Leigue cemetery in Ballina.
    Some of the newer graves in particular

  34. Id b wary of the rossies in the final, if they got through, seen as we bet them im sure they’ll really have the bit between the teeth! Plus fergal o’donnell is back managing them, who won a minor all-ireland in ’06. Bit strange for a previous senior county manager to revert back to under 18’s. do you have any insight into why, rosoneri?

  35. Thank God for Joe Ruane. Your comments on Cillian and the Mayo team for the future are spot on. This team is only growing and a perfectly fit and healed Cillian will be a priceless asset next year. The team will be stronger, more experienced and maybe with a few changes will be just as difficult to beat as they are this year.
    They will be defending Sam as well!!!

  36. Am glad you said that Joe Mac and Joe Ruane, I too feel that we are at the dawn of an age, an era or whatever you may call it, where if we win this year we will go on to retain and set the template for others in the future.
    There’s something serious about this squad that it’s not about individuals but a set,more as that of a hive of collective thought and action, that creates waves of forward, positive movement, that overwhelms all in it’s path and doggedly pushes to attain ,that which was the promise of this bunch on that rainy evening at the homecoming last year in MacHale Park……………………..Up till now they have fulfilled that vow in bucket-loads and I have no doubt that they will deliver.

  37. Good, David .
    I always think its nice to see especially if its someone , like ourselves who lived all their lives for their county win SAM.
    The day of our drawn semi final in 2004 I bought a Fermanagh flag and placed on the grave of a great friend , ( Danny Fitz ) a few days later I met his daughter , and she said, I see you were at the grave. He like many others had passed away before his team achieved anything .
    My brother also passed in July 2010 at an early age before seeing this great team of ours.He was extremely ill the day we played Kerry in the league and when I got to the hospital the first question he asked was , did Mayo win.
    I didn’t know and for the first and only time I didn’t care. We thought he wouldn’t make the night , but as I have said stuck it for another few worthless months. Long enough to be embarrassed by the defeats to Sligo and Longford.
    I wonder can he see what’s happening now.

  38. How many young mayo people in 1951 thought that Mayo were on the verge of a great run of allirelands? You would have a hard time convincing them that night in 1951 that not only would they have to wait 38 years to make another final but that in the following 23 years that we would go on to lose 6 more, and be back again for another go in 2013.
    It’s absolutely incredible that since 1989 we have been there so often and still nothing, something has to give!!!!
    I am not a player on the team, so, I can only imagine what must be going through their minds these days. What if they win Sam
    Do they have any idea of what it means or is their youth protecting them from it?
    3 and 1/2 weeks until we know the outcome and I am sleeping poorly already.
    Will we win and have a huge party or will I be 80 looking back at the “golden decades” of the 90s and 2000s where we were able to compete?

  39. Kerry aren’t to shabby In terms of their bench depth either, K Donaghy,D Moran,K O’Leary,B Sheehan, E Brosnan etc these are all top players that could swing a tight game. It’s foolish to write off Kerry and i wouldn’t judge them on league form. Since 1977 Kerry have only lost once to Dublin and that was the last kick of the game in 2011 final that Kerry should have won.

    This Kerry side are capable of causing upset Dublin are leaving themselves too open at the back Cork,Meath didn’t take their chances however Colm Cooper and co with make hay if Dublin don’t tighten up at the back.

  40. As an expat, I only make it back home every few years now and always pay a visit to the new cemetery in Castlebar to pay my respects to whoever has passed away since my last visit

    You can’t explain how emotional it is to see all the Mayo flags on the graves, especially of people you knew growing up who left us way too soon. God willing, 3 weeks from Sunday a lot of wrongs will be righted.

  41. Well said Whitey. Its been a while since I’ve been back meself, but I’m coming back for this one.
    I thought about just parachuting into Dublin for the weekend, but somehow that just doesn’t seem right. How could I come to Ireland and not go home! One of the many stops ill make in and around Ballina, will be Leigue. Say no more.

  42. Fairly emotive stuff lads/lassies. Flags and graveyards and ghosts of the past. Well let me say one thing, Nephin, your brother, and all those that followed our lads through hell and back but never got the chance to see victory, will be having one hell of a party (either above or below!) on Sunday 22nd, because you could pick the best of Kerry and Dublin to play Mayo and they still won’t beat us that day.
    As for the talk of periods of dominance and the begining of an era, ease up a bit. Let’s win this one first. I seem to remember McGuinness coming out with the same stuff this time last year.
    Hon Mayo.

  43. I really don’t understand all this talk of Kerry beating Dublin. Sure anything is possible on the day but the fact remains that Dublin have been operating at a different level all year – especially in their forward line where they have the power, pace and sheer class to put Kerry away with ease. Kerry and Mayo beware…

  44. @45 Kerry played 2nd string side during the early part of the league, the biggest test they got in the championship was against Cork when they won by 2pts and scored 1-16 v Cork. The biggest test Dublin got was also against Cork they won by 5pts and also scored 1-16.

    Kerry average For: 2-17; Average Against: 0-11
    Dublin Average For: 2-18; Average Against: 0-13

    Top scorers

    Kerry Colm Cooper……………1-19
    Dublin Cluxton/Brogan 13 points

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