Kerry star Paul Geaney admires the winning attitude of Dublin - and Mayo's Lee Keegan
PAINFUL. Sickening. Gut-wrenching. Paul Geaney had all those feelings on Sunday – but the Kerry star had no complaints about the cynicism shown in the closing moments of the All-Ireland football final.
Well, he did accept that Mayo's Lee Keegan throwing his GPS unit at Dublin free-taker Dean Rock was "maybe a step too far" – but the Dingle man laughed lightly as he said that.
Four Dublin forwards holding Mayo backs when 'keeper David Clarke went to take the kick-out after what proved to be the winning free conversion from Rock did not surprise or annoy him at all, he insists
"No. I would expect it from anyone who has ambitions of winning an All-Ireland. Kill or be killed…
"Those sort of things are interesting to see. If you are really contesting the All-Ireland and going out to win it, they are markers of where your team is at, because if you are not doing those things then you are not really tuned in enough be contesting an All-Ireland final…
"There was a discussion on the black card the last day and somebody was talking to Colm Cavanagh, who was sitting next to me, about that incident with Sean against Monaghan [in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final].
"That was a case of either Sean Cavanagh taking a player down or Monaghan getting a goal and knocking Tyrone out. That is sport.
"In soccer there is a red card but that does not stop defenders making challenges to save a goal or Luis Suarez handing a ball on the line. It is part and parcel of the game.
"It is the nature of sport and I would not have expected anything less from the Dubs in that situation and they got their just reward for it, if you want to put it that way, in that they slowed the game down.
"The purpose was to mess up the kick-out and they got the ball back and they held it for the next minute or two, or whatever was left in the game.
"It is a situation where you have to do everything in your power to win."
Keegan's attempt to put off Rock was "maybe a step too far," Geaney chuckled, before adding "but again that is Mayo and Keegan's will-to-win at all costs.
"All you can say there is that it was an incredible free from Dean Rock under that pressure in the first place.
"Maybe it was not a hard free and it is our job as free-takers to kick those and it is his job to kick that - but that was before I saw that GPS thrown at him. That can really put you off so it showed some balls for him to kick it.
"Even if someone ran across your line of vision in the wrong moment it would be enough to put you off but for someone to throw a GPS unit…
"How do you even think of that in the first place?! Take this thing out of the jersey there… But that shows you the will-to-win that is in Lee Keegan, which I would not blame him for."
As for those bad feelings mentioned at the start of this piece? They were the result of Geaney watching the final rather than playing in it.
"It was painful enough [watching], yeah. It was a good day, a good spectacle but it is sickening enough not being on the field on All-Ireland final day.
"It is what you are built to do and what you are hoping to do every year. It is fairly gut-wrenching all right to see someone else lift the cup and not even being able to contest it."
Back at HQ for the official launch of PwC's sponsorship of the GAA/GPA Allstars, Geaney commented: "I could have been the only one from our team in Croke Park the last day and I can guarantee you that there were a couple of fellas that did not even watch the game. It is a tough one, all right…
"I come because I want to learn how to beat Dublin/Mayo. Every day is a school day. I am a supporter as well."
The Kerry Minors completing four-in-a-row at that level gives the Kingdom hope for the long-term future, but Geaney believes they can challenge for `Sam Maguire' next year, even if former colleagues Col Cooper and Marc O Se disagree:
"Any given day you'd fancy our chances to beat Mayo or Dublin, that's the top two there. All you've got to do is beat one of them and you'd win the All-Ireland because the other one might be beaten by the other anyway.
"You've just got to keep coming back to try to get into position. I don't know what their views are based on, [maybe] that the Dublin team is so good that they can't see Kerry beating them…
"I think you need a lot of luck to win an All-Ireland as well, and I think if a bit of luck would go our way we could definitely win it.
"We need to improve a few small areas – there are too many scores going against us, that's probably where we start. I would say it's too early to be saying we can't win the All-Ireland over the next couple of years, that's a big statement to be making…
"Up until the semi-final I was convinced we were going to win it this year. But looking back we seemed to have peaked at the Munster Final and went downhill from there, things didn't go our way at all.
"We were well off the pace in both the Mayo games looking back now, and even the Galway game we were poor, we were sluggish.
"We have to try to peak later in the year to give ourselves a better chance."
The 26-year-old, who has been nominated for a PwC All-star after winning one last year, is adamant that Kerry can compete physically with Dublin, saying:
"It's not a problem for us in general. We would tend to match up with them physically. Have done last year, and the year before.
"Where we lost out with Dublin last year and the year before was the last six or seven minutes of the game when they had subs coming in that we ran out of gas.
"Physicality wasn't a problem. It wasn't a problem in the league final either. We matched them for that. It was a case of running out of gas last year and this year we didn't bring the fight to Mayo.
"Mayo just brought fight to the semi-finals, both of them. We weren't at the pitch of the game.
"We're okay physically, we can definitely go toe-to-toe with those teams. But it was a case of Mayo bringing the fight in the semi-final and us not.
"It might have looked that they were more physical than us but it was just a case of them being more aggressive," he concluded.