Kerry left with much to ponder as Donegal's system comes up trumps
THE MIDDLE THIRD:Donegal are a really impressive team who have perfected a system which Kerry found they were unable to counteract
KERRY PEOPLE won’t let you away with anything. I was doing the games for TV3 on Sunday and when there came a big heavy shower of rain in the first half of Kerry v Donegal, we got in under these big purple umbrellas for a bit of shelter. I could feel the Kerry supporters behind me thinking it, even if they weren’t saying it. “Ah Darragh boy, would you not be a man about it? ’Tis only a bit of rain.”
After losing to Donegal, the Kerry players will be feeling that kind of thing all week. Kerry were beaten on the day by the better side and they will hear about it from their own people. Not in a vindictive way but in a realistic way. They will question why the players weren’t able to make better decisions in possession, why Declan O’Sullivan was taken off so early, why players who have won All-Irelands lost another game in Croke Park in such a disappointing way.
I’m using the phrase “Kerry people” here as if I’m not one of them myself. I am, obviously. But the truth of it is that part of me is still emotionally attached to that team and I know a bit about what they’re feeling now. The memory of what it feels like to go back home after a defeat like this one is still fresh. You’re going back to a place where everybody has an opinion on how you did and where you went wrong. On every street, in every pub, in every village and town, you will feel what people think even if they don’t say it to you.
So it’s still a bit raw with me. With two brothers in the team, with friends I’ll have all my life still there, I kind of feel like I have one foot out and one foot in. I’m not part of it anymore but that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it. And it got to me a few times on Sunday.
Colm Cooper said to me once he didn’t mind being man-marked or even double-marked – it was when the third, fourth and fifth fellas came along that he knew he was in trouble. I was never the most talented player on the pitch but I knew my job and it was to clear out a bit of space and scatter a few fellas so that the likes of the Gooch could do his stuff.
I knew my limitations and I knew that the best thing I could do was make room for the talented guys and facilitate them. I was definitely itching to get out and do that on Sunday.
Donegal won and they deserved to win. They had their game plan and it worked very well. They took advantage of the goal from the sideline ball, they took advantage of that big shower of rain and even when Kerry came back at them with the late flurry that you would expect from these players, they didn’t panic and they kept doing what had served them well. They crowded Kerry out, they tackled really well and they attacked at speed and took their scores.
Just about the only upside for Kerry is they probably would have been beaten by Cork the next day anyway. I ran into Cork people afterwards who were giving me their usual spiel. “Ah, we’d have preferred to see the pure footballing team come up against us in the semi-final.” Not meaning a word of it, of course. Not even trying to hide their delight. You have to take that kind of thing on the chin too.
There is plenty for the Kerry inquest to delve into. One of the biggest talking points was taking off Declan O’Sullivan.