kingdom are back | 

Sense of entitlement from Kerry fans is astonishing – they would have treated final defeat as a disaster

The sun would still have risen last Monday morning regardless of the result in Croke Park.
Kerry supporters waiting for Kerry players to arrive onto Kenmare Square on Wednesday. Photo: Tatyana McGough

Kerry supporters waiting for Kerry players to arrive onto Kenmare Square on Wednesday. Photo: Tatyana McGough

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

So, the cannister is back in the Kingdom and their fans are at peace. Good for them.

The other counties will look on with understandable trepidation at the return of the Kingdom to the summit of the football world.

Kerry’s sense of entitlement is astonishing. Their view before the final was there was no ‘tomorrow’ for this group of players if they lost.

Since Kerry’s previous All-Ireland win in 2014, Mayo featured in finals in 2016 – which went to a replay – 2017, 2020 and 2021 and still failed to get over the finishing line.

But nobody ever suggested it was the end of Gaelic football in Mayo, however if Kerry had lost on Sunday their fans would have thought that was the end of their dreams of All-Ireland glory for years to come.

The sun would still have risen last Monday morning regardless of the result in Croke Park.

As Benjamin, the donkey, said in Animal Farm ‘Life will go on as it was always gone on – that is, badly.’

One wonders what was really going through the Kerry players’ heads when Galway went two points clear in the 47th minute. When it mattered though, they didn’t flinch and deserved to be crowned All-Ireland champions for the 38th time.

Kerry fans show their absolute delight at the Sliabh Luachra Bar in Ballydesmond as the final whistle blew. Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald.

Kerry fans show their absolute delight at the Sliabh Luachra Bar in Ballydesmond as the final whistle blew. Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald.

Until he finally dragged Kerry over the finish line in the 1987 All-Ireland final at the age of 26 Maurice Fitzgerald was labelled the best Kerry footballer never to have won an All-Ireland.

The tag since passed to David Clifford. But he has got rid of it at the age of 23. Provided he avoids serious injury, his best years are ahead of him.

Without him there is no way Kerry would have prevailed on Sunday.

When all the analysis is stripped down to its most basic, Kerry won because Clifford got more support in terms of scoring from his forward colleagues – they hit five points from play – compared to Galway’s Shane Walsh whose forward colleagues could only manage 0-1 from play between them.

Kerry’s win debunked the myth of the Fear Láidir being an essential element of their team. Historically their All-Ireland wins have been characterised by heroic performance from midfielders.

Pat ‘Aeroplane’ O’Shea, Bob Stack, Con Brosnan, Paddy Kennedy, John Dowling, Mick O’Connell, Jack O’Shea and Darragh O Sé are legendary figures in the annals of the Kingdom.

But it was Galway’s Cillian McDaid who was the outstanding midfielder on view, with his four points nearly tipping the game in favour of the Connacht side.

No bad team wins an All-Ireland title, but this is certainly not a vintage Kerry side.

Of course, they could mature into one. And it is improbable that this group of players, the majority of whom have yet to reach their physical peak, will leave the stage with just one Celtic Cross.

They are more akin to the side that won two All-Ireland titles in 1997 and 2000 than the noughties team which won four titles between 2004 and 2009 though still failed to get over Tyrone when they were at their peak.

But the David Clifford factor means they will be the most feared team in the championship for the rest of the decade.

Meanwhile, the biggest trap Galway could fall into is thinking that having been so close at the first attempt they will definitely bring Sam across the Shannon in the near future.

Pádraic Joyce only needs to refer to the career of his uncle Willie Joyce to understand about how difficult it is to win a Celtic Cross.

The latter was midfielder on the Galway team beaten in the 1971, 1973 and 1974 All-Ireland finals and came on as a substitute in the 1983 decider against Dublin which Galway also lost.

Don’t forget it took this group of Kerry players four seasons of blood, sweat and tears to reach the pinnacle.

Their failure to emerge from their Super 8 group in 2018 – they lost to Galway and fashioned a draw with Monaghan thanks to a last-gasp wonder goal from Clifford – marked the end of the Eamon Fitzmaurice era.

His successor Peter Keane was responsible for the rebuild. They had a chance of beating Dublin in the drawn 2019 decider but didn’t reach another final until this year by which time they had a new manager.

There are huge pitfalls ahead for Galway. They definitely need to strength their squad. Their bench contributed little in the final - in contrast to the influence of the Kerry replacements.

Regular full-back Sean Mulkerrin is likely to be back, but defensive colleague Liam Silke could be unavailable as he is planning to travel to New Zealand.

They need to focus on their kick-out strategy – their re-starts are too slow, and the amount of graft needed to win them in the middle third of the field probably took its toll on the players.

When it mattered Kerry looked the better conditioned team.

Finally, and most importantly, the path to the All-Ireland final will be far less straight-forward due to the introduction of a new round-robin phase in the All-Ireland series.

Galway need to be wary of these obstacles or they could turn into another Mayo.


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