17:59, 15 Sep 2011
You’d expect nothing less coming into an All Ireland final, only for there to be talk of Paul Galvin. Is naming him on the bench just a ploy? If the All Ireland hurling final taught us anything – and not just that the old dog can still bite, as has been mentioned in all quarters – then it was that you must start with your best 15 on the field. Or in the case of Tipperary’s Brendan Maher and Kerry’s Galvin, you must start with a player who is arguably your best in the team.
Because of how ill-advised that decision in the hurling final looked by the end of the 70th minute, and while taking into account that they are two different sports, you feel there was certainly a lesson to be learned for Jack O’Connor.
Galvin may have come on against Mayo and run rings around a tiring team but that was no shock. It looked a great call then and plenty of critics have pointed to how this could be the undoing of Dublin too but the Westerners were somewhat spent after 25 minutes of taking the game to the Kingdom, and Galvin was able to waltz around confidently. Trevor Mortimer tried to keep after him but it’s a tough enough task when you’re not already wearied.
The most obvious reason to start Galvin is to take a look back to the All Ireland quarter-final of 2010 against Down. Due to suspension, he – along with Tomás Ó Sé – were unable to line out against the Ulster men and the team folded as time went by. Bring up Killian Young’s disallowed goal if you must, but remember too that there was a nine-point gap between the sides until David Moran converted a penalty when the jig was up.
As it was once a given that the earth was flat, so too it seems taken as gospel that the middle quarters is where the gravity of this game will be defined. Perhaps it will, and of course it will to some extent before the real game-breakers are taken into consideration. That, of course, being the scorers.
Diarmuid Connolly has of course received a lot of press because of both his performance against Tyrone and his red card – rightfully rescinded – against Donegal. In fact, the Free Dermo campaign that circulated online was another good distraction for the Dublin panel coming into the final. Yet he has misfired in plenty of games this season. He might have scored 1-3 against a submissive Laois but he missed some great goal chances; he was taken off scoreless against both Kildare and Wexford, and of course was red-carded without getting on the scoresheet against Tír Chonaill. He still has something to prove, because one virtuoso display in a comfortable win – albeit because of his contribution – does not a summer make. Nor an All Ireland.
The Brogans is where the All Ireland is more likely to be won for Dublin. Bernard has found the going that bit tougher in 2011 and sometimes his shot selections – the Leinster final stood out – have been off; the mark of a man either searching for confidence, or who backs himself above his teammates. But if he gets the goalscoring chances that Kerry presented to Mayo and the excellent Andy Moran, the town may be painted blue – he remains Dublin’s top scorer this year with 0-23 in any case. Similarly with Alan who can seal a nomination for Football of the Year with another strong contribution.
Perhaps just a third of the team that lost to Kerry in the 2007 All Ireland semi-final (we still can’t believe Bernard was subbed that day) remain four years on; about half of the team from the demolition two years later. Kerry have retained 10 of those who started in 2007 – 11 if Galvin starts – and eight from 2009, again excluding the Finuge man. So certainly Dublin have changed that bit more since Paul Caffrey’s reign, but obviously more so than just in terms of personnel.
Is it enough to deal with Kerry’s forwards? Rory O’Carroll has been exceptional at full-back and Michael Fitzsimons continues to impress. Whether it has been Philly McMahon, Paul Conlon or Cian O’Sullivan in the other corner, safety has come with them too. How else to explain just two goals conceded in championship football this year, and the third best defence in the NHL Division 1.
Somewhat surprisingly, Kerry topped the defensive table but their defence was not nearly as prolific in early 2011. Now, in championship fare, they are scoring on average almost six points more per game (16.4 to 23) than Dublin. Which brings up the quality of opposition for the Kingdom: Tipperary, Limerick (twice), Cork and Mayo. A Tipp team on the rise but still looking up at the kings of Munster, a Limerick team that looks to have missed its best chances of an upset, of course a strong Cork team, and a Mayo team that ran out of gas. Dublin waltzed past Laois and Tyrone but Kildare, Wexford and Donegal all took them to the edge of the cliff.
Between both, Cork are probably the only real All Ireland contender that have been beaten by either finalist – and the Rebels then fell unceremoniously to Mayo. And while Dublin may still need to win one to prove they are the real deal, we know Kerry already are.
Which is why if they can weather the storm, they have to be fancied. More reason for Galvin to start.
Chat to Shane Stapleton on Twitter @shanesaint
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @eircomSportsHub
Feel free to comment below