Dubs get back to the summit

Dublin has reclaimed the Sam Maguire after a thrilling final over reigning champions Kerry. The greasy conditions made executing the basic skills not the simplest, but this was still a ferocious battle.

I was breathless watching it, such was the intensity. It's remarkable that amateur sportsmen can put in performances like we witnessed last Sunday, and I'm not just talking about a few players – the entire squads literally emptied their tanks and ran themselves to a standstill.

As much as I wanted extra time, I feel the majority of players had little or nothing else to give after David Gough blew the final whistle. All the talk before the game was about who would shackle David Clifford and how quiet the Dublin chosen one would keep Clifford. All the talk after the game is about the performance of David Clifford and his duel with Michael Fitzsimons. People are divided on this one.

The Dubs are firmly backing their fullback for winning his duel with the Kerry captain because of holding him to two points from play. Although I thought Fitzsimons did fairly well, David Clifford left four or five points behind him that he would normally never miss. Had they gone over, there would have been serious questions about that match-up because Kerry would have won the All-Ireland, and Clifford would have probably gotten another man of the match.

I find it a little strange that Fitzsimons has won the player of the week on the official GAA.ie website. That is more a case of the Dubs backing their man because of the divided opinion about how the duel went. Clifford cut a forlorn figure on the pitch after the game. He has had a turbulent year, as Paudie has, with the passing of their mother.

They are remarkable humans for the seasons they both had. The old saying "you're only as good as your last game" couldn't be more apt about Cormac Costello. I found myself in a similar position to Costello. Tipped to be the player of the year before the final, and now most likely Costello won't even get an All-Star because of the job Tom O'Sullivan did on him last Sunday. Darren Fay was the wrecker of my All-Ireland dreams, but at least Costello got his Celtic cross.

Stephen Cluxton, Michael Fitzsimons, and James McCarthy have entered the record books by becoming the first men to win 9 All-Ireland titles – a truly remarkable achievement.

Surely it will never be rivaled, unless they hang on and go for a tenth. For the rest of us, it would be no harm if they moved on. McCarthy can consider himself somewhat lucky he wasn't the first player to lift Sam after being red-carded. David Gough was more than kind to him.

Despite a much better second half, the Mayo ladies were second best to a Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh-inspired Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. A brilliantly executed Deirdre Doherty goal only thirty seconds after she entered the fray in that second period gave hope to Mayo, but unfortunately, that was as good as it got.

The damage was done in a nine-minute spell in the first half. Level at 0-2 each after 11 minutes, the Kerry ladies turned the screw and went on a rampage, hitting 1-07 on the spin to lead 1-09 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.

Kerry took full advantage of the elements at their backs. Everything went right for them during that period – every shot taken went over the bar, and every single Mayo mistake was punished. Mayo were forced to go for goals late on, with time running out, when points would have been easier options, but they knew that at least one more green flag was needed to try to rescue the game.

There are lessons aplenty to be learned from this. I'm sure some of you eagle-eyed observers noticed Ni Mhuircheartaigh taking advantage of what I can only describe as weak officiating. When Kerry was under the cosh in that second half, the referee awarded two frees to Kerry. Both were correct calls – that was not the issue. The first free was awarded 3 to 4 metREs outside the D just to the left of centRE. The second was a little more to the left, about two metres outside the D. When Ni Mhuircheartaigh struck both frees, she was a metre inside the D when she actually made contact with the ball. This is nothing against her – she took full advantage of the ref not having his bearings. She hit the top of the post with the first free and nailed the second one. Both were momentum killers, both should have been hop balls for encroachment.

Ultimately, they didn't decide the outcome of the game, but there is a lesson there. Ni Mhuircheartaigh was in splendid form for the Kingdom, scoring 1-10, 1-06 from open play. She is also very clever in how to take advantage of a situation and certainly knows how to make the most of it. Kerry will now meet Dublin in the final in what is a repeat of the men's final. I expect the outcome to be the same, and Dublin to do the double.

 

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