David Clifford the heir-apparent ensures it’s 2001 all over again for Dublin and Kerry

Dubs show some signs of tactical innovation as Wexford against Kilkenny is postponed

David Clifford carries during Kerry’s Allianz League draw with Dublin. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

David Clifford carries during Kerry’s Allianz League draw with Dublin. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

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Twenty years on, Dublin and Kerry staged a revival of the 2001 Trip to Tipp and came up with the same outcome. That day was tied up by a timeless line-ball point from Maurice Fitzgerald and if a penalty is a more prosaic means of scoring, it was Fitzgerald’s modern-day heir apparent, David Clifford, who converted it to level up matters in the fifth minute of injury-time.

Times have changed and the relationship of the counties has come full circle with Dublin now dominant partner. There was great anticipation coming into the match, as Kerry had dismantled Galway on the opening day of the league and looked fit to put it up to the champions.

Clifford’s hat-trick in Tralee claimed last week’s headlines and yesterday’s late deliverance may emulate that this week but Dublin can diffidently - or not - draw attention to their own Con O’Callaghan: sure, we have our own gentry.

“You guys are the ones writing about them,” said acting Dublin manager Mick Galvin. “To be honest with you I think we are just lucky to have two great footballers, one in each county, they are great advertisements and great footballers. They are different, we’re happy with Con, they’re happy with David.

“We’ll see how it pans out as the year goes ahead.”

Con and another Dublin sharp shooter, Cormac Costello, went on their own spree, banging off 4-4 between them. O’Callaghan though romped in for two goals and got taken down for a penalty, which Costello converted, as well as hitting the post and forcing a point-blank stop on young Kerry ‘keeper Kieran Fitzgibbon.

Clifford was gamely marked by Michael Fitzsimons, one of the best markers in the game, and it’s a tribute to the Kerry prodigy’s reputation that getting taken for 0-5 from play - out of a total of 1-6 - didn’t especially undermine the Cuala defender’s status.

Reviled experiment

After last winter’s now reviled experiment with the profane ‘defensive football’ blew up in their face, Peter Keane’s men looked far more themselves, willing to be tactically - and every other way - open at the back but counting on being able to hit back at the other end, which by the final whistle they had managed.

“Look, you don’t like conceding goals,” said the manager afterwards, a little unnecessarily. “They had another one or two opportunities on top of that. That probably wasn’t what we set out to do but, at the same time, our priority coming into the game was to come out of it injury-free.

“I feel from the dressing room that we have come out injury-free on it. We’re looking at next week trying to get Tom O’Sullivan, Tony Brosnan and Jack Barry back in again so we’re building here, I said to ye at the start the priority was to be injury-free and to try and have everybody on the starting block for Clare.”

The result leaves the two of them on three points with Kerry now in the semi-finals and Dublin favourites to join them in a week’s time.

There was some tactical innovation going with Dublin despite their conventional line-out. Brian Fenton pushed up to centre forward at the start and although he reverted to the usual centrefield posting, he definitely played a role farther forward. James McCarthy looked to be playing at wing forward but dropped back when needed to help to screen the defence.

Mick Galvin was vague about the novelties on display.

“It was quite fluid with Brian. We just wanted to try and get him into different positions and ask different questions of the opposition - nothing really too much to read into it: just trying things out at this time of the year.”

Recovering from seven points down must have impressed Peter Keane? The Kerry manager searched the silver lining for a cloud.

“Yeah but look you could apply - did they turn off or tune out? The opposition? I don’t know the answer to that. We were happy that we injected more tempo into that third quarter. Whether we came out of it with a win, a draw or a loss, we did more in that third quarter, in that second half, than we had been doing in the first half.”

He mentioned again how important it was to be injury-free.

Absentees

Galvin, asked about some of his own absentees, said that he expected captain Stephen Cluxton and Dean Rock to be back by the end of the league. He was more downbeat talking about John Small, who had to be helped off in the second half.

“It doesn’t look good, to be honest with you. Think it’s a hamstring injury so we just have to get the medics to have a look at him and we’ll see how he is during the week. We’ll get scans done and we’ll know more then.”

If that was the big event of the weekend, the big non-event was Wexford’s match with Kilkenny, which was called off on Saturday lunchtime because of a positive Covid test in the Wexford camp.

County chair Micheál Martin said that they hoped to secure a postponement, as stated in Saturday’s press release.

“To a degree we’re fortunate that there’s a gap weekend coming up. Otherwise, getting a postponement would simply not be a possibility. Two players told us on Tuesday that they had tested positive and we arranged for the panel to be tested as well.

“All returned negative results but we were advised to test again before the weekend and did so on Friday. When we received word that one player had tested positive, we were advised to call off the match. The panel won’t reconvene until we test everyone again on Wednesday.”

The application for a postponement means that Central Competitions Control Committee chair Derek Kent - Martin’s predecessor in Wexford - will have to stand down temporarily for the hearing but the likelihood is that the request will be granted, as re-fixtures are generally allowed “if there’s at least 13 days to the next round”.

CCCC will meet to consider the matter on Monday morning. Any postponement to next weekend will be contingent on the HSE clearing Wexford to play after next week’s testing.

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