Kerry examine past Dublin games ahead of league opener
Donnchadh Walsh acknowledges a better start than last season is required
Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh.
Just in case it wasn’t burnt into their memory already Kerry have dug out the DVD of last summer’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in preparation for Saturday’s rematch at Croke Park – the headline game in the opening round of the 2014 Allianz Football League.
It may not attract a similar attendance – 81,533 packed into Croke Park last September 1st – but it does offer Kerry the chance to find some personal redemption: Dublin trailed by a point with three minutes of normal time to go, before plundering 2-2 at the death to make the final score look like a fraud, 3-18 to 3-11.
That didn’t stop anyone from declaring it an instant classic, although Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh, who enjoyed one of his best performances in the green and gold jersey that day, admits watching the DVD last weekend wasn’t easy, especially as Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice kept pressing the pause button when it came to those painful scenes close to the end.
“And I’m sure that’s exactly what Eamonn wanted to do, make us remember the bit of hurt,” says 29-year-old Walsh. “But he also re-emphasised the unforced errors that we made that day. Even if we’d limited one of them, it would have meant that we would have been a point up, for that late kick-out, rather than it being a level game, and things could have changed.”
Instead they changed irreversibly in Dublin’s favour – as Michael Darragh Macauley somehow flicked that kick-out to Kevin McManamon, and the rest is history. Now, the memory refreshed, Walsh still wonders again was it a game Kerry simply left behind.
“Absolutely. If we had claimed that kick-out, you could imagine that the game could have gone another way. And it’s still hard to look back now and know what kind of feelings I have. You put so much effort into the whole year, and it can come down to the one moment of the game. It all just instils your knowledge that it is sport at the end of the day. How can you justify the complete sense of loss that we felt compared to the joy Dublin felt?
“But, in saying that, the Dubs ran out convincing winners as well. So you wonder could they have put the pedal down later on. We are still hurting a small bit, but it’s not about putting it right on Saturday evening. It’s just the chance for a good start to the new season. I think it helps that we’re playing Dublin too. It will be a bench-mark as to whether we had a good pre-season or whether we have more work to do.”
Kerry have since lost veterans such as Tomás Ó Sé and Eoin Brosnan, and will be without the services of several others too for Saturday, including Colm “Gooch” Cooper, who is focusing on club duty with Dr Crokes. What is certain is Kerry are looking for a better league start than last year, when they only avoided relegation in the last round.
“I remember Marty Morrissey was sent down to investigate the problem,” says Walsh, speaking at the league launch in Croke Park. “I suppose some people thought maybe we’d forgotten how to play football. But it was probably down to the transition of new management, and training very hard in January. This year we have pulled it back a bit, and hopefully we are that bit fresher. Our main aim to get to a semi-final of the league, and you are going to have to win your first few games to put yourself in that position.”
Saturday’s game in Croke Park (7.0) goes out live on Setanta, and the addition of the Walsh Cup hurling final between Dublin and Kilkenny (5.0) should help draw an attendance in excess of 30,000.
Tickets can also be purchased in advanced for just €10, prior to midnight on Friday.
Although win or lose, neither Kerry nor Dublin will be reading too deeply into the result. “We’d love to get back and beat them,” says Walsh. “But really it’s just about the starting the league off right.”