GAA Football

Jim Gavin unimpressed after Kerry rebellion upholds Dubs' coronation

Dublin's Con Callaghan and Kerry's Tom O'Sullivan in action during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park Dublin 09-01-2019. Pic Philp Walsh
From Cahair O'Kane at Croke Park

All-Ireland SFC final: Dublin 1-16 Kerry 1-16

THEY came to see a coronation and they got a rebellion.

The five-in-a-row dream was starting to sift through Dublin hands like sand as they found themselves chasing the ball a point down, three minutes into stoppage time and playing with a man less.

Jim Gavin’s side had survived twice thanks to Stephen Cluxton, once in stopping a penalty and then tipping Paul Murphy’s strike on to the bar, and they’d regrouped after Jonny Cooper’s dismissal in first half stoppage time.

But they managed to summon the energy to swallow David Moran up and turn him over, working the ball for Dean Rock to kick the leveller and rescue a second date on Saturday week.

Yet it’s hard to think of the last time the Dublin boss cut as disappointed a figure with his side’s performance. It had to be the 2016 drawn game with Mayo, after which he made three changes for the replay, including dropping Bernard Brogan.

“The performance wasn’t good enough to get the result. We have the opportunity now to rectify that,” he said in his matter-of-fact way.

That was his gut feeling.

“Just disappointed with our performance, that’s the overriding thought.

“The resilience the Dublin players showed to be on the ropes as such and to still to keep moving and keep creating scoring chances, keep turning the ball over, that’s obviously the impressive piece, but overall in the expanse of the game, just not good enough from the standards the players set for themselves, not what I set for them.

“I know when they reflect they’ll have a lot to say and all we’ve done today by getting a draw is give ourselves an opportunity to come out again here in 13 days and hopefully get a better performance, and if we can do that hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the game.”

Given the opportunity for excuses, such as whether Kerry corner-back Tom O’Sullivan should have suffered the same fate as Cooper when he fouled John Small high while on a booking, Gavin had a bit of a nibble but then turned it away.

“We didn’t get the rub of the green in that regard (calls) but that happens in games, some days you get those calls and some days you don’t.

“It’s hard to know,” he said on Cooper’s dismissal, “both players were grappling. In the second half we could have gotten one or two calls which could have gone our way, they didn’t, so you just dust yourself down and go again.

“Some days the calls go for you, in that instance (O’Sullivan) it went against us but overall you wouldn’t be looking at that as an excuse.

“It’s just the performance from ourselves wasn’t good enough, but we have an opportunity the next day to try to rectify that.”

Dublin’s drop to 14 men affected their defensive performance in the sense of leaving them having to play completely without a sweeper, but they were seldom cut open barring on Killian Spillane’s match-turning goal.

That cut what was a five-point deficit for Kerry after 56 minutes and created such a shift in momentum that the unthinkable started to look more than possible, right as far as probable.

“We played well in patches of the first half,” said Gavin.

“We went five points up and they got a point relating from that sending off, pushed ahead and we went five up in the second.

“The guys, we know them well and they are mentally very strong, great mental reserve there — a resilient football team.

“A point down with 72 minutes on the clock, the perception might have been that the game has gone away from them.

“All credit to the Dublin players, they tackled and kept their disciplined and turned Kerry over, and created opportunities for themselves — could have taken one or two more.”

There was the occasional wry smile, the occasional short answer – “Disappointed you didn’t move Cooper off Clifford earlier?” “No.” – but this was the same man we saw after the draw in 2016.

It’s a defiance and a public disappointment we don’t see too often, because he seldom needs to unmask it.

Which Jim Gavin will it be after the game in two weeks’ time? The odds on it being this one are a lot shorter now than they were yesterday morning.

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