question marks | 

Why a Kerry dynasty is far from inevitable – their rivals will be confident of taking them down

Dublin will be among the counties looking to kick on in 2023 after near miss this summer
Brothers Killian, left, and Adrian Spillane of Kerry celebrate after last Sunday's win in the All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Brothers Killian, left, and Adrian Spillane of Kerry celebrate after last Sunday's win in the All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Dessie Farrell

Dessie Farrell© SPORTSFILE

Colm O'Rourke


David Clifford

David Clifford© SPORTSFILE


It’s only right and proper that I start by recognising Kerry’s achievement from last weekend and there’s no question that they were deserving winners of the All-Ireland this year.

From the start of the year, they looked a team determined to succeed, based on the team selections of Jack O’Connor all the way through the league and onto the championship, and the pressure valve has now been released on this team.

These selections helped develop and foster consistency and a sense of confidence as a result and O’Connor deserves immense praise for ending Kerry’s eight-year wait for Sam Maguire.

He is a perennial winner and seemed focused and tuned in to what was required of this group to succeed and he duly delivered, particularly in terms of their mental toughness.

With the contest in the melting pot last Sunday, they were the team who stood up in the final quarter and their challenge didn’t wilt as it had in big games over previous years.

Ultimately, they were the team pulling away in the closing stages and you have to tip your hat to them for what they achieved this year.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t agree that a new dynasty is inevitable and I would not expect Kerry to dominate the inter-county landscape in the manner that Dublin managed in the last decade.

There are still question marks over some aspects of their defence and midfield and an over-reliance on David Clifford for scores as well and I think certain counties feel confident that they can raise a meaningful challenge for honours next year.

One of those counties is Dublin, naturally, and when they look back on the championship, it’s likely that they will harbour one or two regrets.

There’s no denying that they had Kerry on the ropes in the second half of the semi-final and that sense of ‘what could have been’ could well prove instructive in terms of who manages the team in the coming year.

Of course, the current incumbent is Dessie Farrell and the job is his for the time being as the Dublin County Board would be hugely reluctant to end his term at this time.

That doesn’t prevent the serious amount of speculation that is being shared across social media with some of the hypotheses I’ve seen bordering on the fanciful. Maybe there is an element of truth in the suggestion that Farrell is mulling over his future but that would be natural after three years in the role.

Of course, he will be doing plenty of reflecting on how the season panned out and he will share some of the players’ regrets but he must decide if the appetite is still there for another year.

Farrell introduced a lot of players last year, and he deserves credit for that, but the only one that really made a consistent mark at championship time was Lee Gannon.

Dublin need more players to come through and put their hand up for jersey and it could be that playing in Division 2 of the National League next year will allow more experimentation in terms of team selection.

It would be the right time to bring in a few lads and help build confidence within the panel away from the spotlight and intensity of the top flight but finding the correct players with the required attributes to succeed in the pressurised environment of playing for Dublin is easier said than done.

Farrell may also need to have a conversation with some of the more senior players as to their intentions for 2023 as what they decide in terms of prolonging their inter-county careers could have a huge bearing on his own future.

Lads like James McCarthy, Mick Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper and Dean Rock may need to be sounded out as to what their own plans are for next year and whether they have the legs and the appetite for another year at the coalface.

There will be more championship matches next year to take into account and some players may feel this is as good a time as any to step down and these potential decisions could have a huge part to play in any decision that Farrell makes in terms of his own future.

If he was to step down, then Declan Darcy would be the front-runner to replace him and he seems the obvious fit given the time he spent coaching alongside Jim Gavin.

He is a serious operator who is very well respected by the players and would be a strong appointment, I believe, if it were to ever materialise.

However, the ball is in Dessie’s court at present and he has earned the right to make a decision in his own time and it’s certain that the decision he makes will be in the best interests of football in the county.

Up the road in Meath, Colm O’Rourke has finally taken the reins of his beloved county and I believe that it’s a very good appointment for all concerned.

I got a sense from talking to him earlier in the year that his hat was in the ring and I’m pleased that he has landed a role that was always close to his heart.

He will certainly have plans in place to improve the situation in a county that has underachieved massively in terms of their potential, tradition and playing numbers and he has the respect of a large number of people in Meath.

I think it’s also a good appointment for Dublin as, let’s be honest, we have missed not having them at the table in recent times with the intensity of the clashes of the 1980s and 1990s sorely missed.

It whets the appetite for the coming year and if he’s half a good a manager as he was a player, Meath are sure to benefit massively from his involvement.

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