Kerry’s shooting leaves them wide of the mark
Manager Peter Keane proud of a side that died with their boots on
The Kerry players watch Dublin collect the Sam Maguire at Croke Park. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
It takes about 20 minutes before Peter Keane walks into the media room under the Hogan Stand. This is all part of All-Ireland final tradition, the losing manager always appearing first, while down the corridor the victors are left celebrating their moment of triumph for that bit longer. Explaining defeat, it seems, comes easier and so comes first.
That Keane has just lost his first All-Ireland final as Kerry manager is only the bit part of the tale to tell and he knows it: that Jim Gavin is down that corridor celebrating his fifth win in succession as Dublin, sixth in all, is what this game will be remembered for, for tonight and forever more.
For Keane the first line of questioning he faces is what turned the game in Dublin’s favour and there are two things at the ready - Eoin Murchan’s goal 10 seconds after the restart shot Dublin straight back in front after Paul Geaney had levelled it for Kerry, 0-10 apiece, just before half-time.
And after that the Kerry wides, oh the wides. They finished with 10 of them, to Dublin’s four, but they were most costly than a tick on the side of the match programme. Each shot that drifted wide gave Dublin more confidence to drive home the five, while taking from Kerry’s will to halt it.
“Look, we were there in the first half, and were chasing it a bit, we were down five at one stage in that first half and got it back to equal at half time,” says Keane. “The goal I suppose wasn’t part of the plan after half-time but we worked our way back to two points again. We had a few chances after that but I suppose we were stretching it at all times there after you know?”
Impossible as it was for anyone to see Murchan’s goal coming, it could have been prevented nonetheless: David Moran had his chance to ensure of that, and still Keane isn’t quite putting it down as the turning point.
“It was, but by the same token if you are going to concede one it might be as good a time as any to concede one because you are going to have another 30 or 40 minutes to go after it. When we had the goal chance ourselves (when Stephen O’Brien’s shot was saved by Stephen Cluxton) what were we down three, four points? If we had taken that so . . . we had chances we just didn’t convert them.
But Kerry’s wides, oh such wides: Moran hit three and each one drained as much confidence as the next out of his team.
“That will happen,” says Keane. “and look it’s a learning curve. I suppose there were a few areas we were struggling in and they were able to dominate then and then they were kicking scores. When we were chasing it back we weren’t getting them. Just the small little margins, you know?”
Any sense that Kerry’s best chance to beat Dublin had been left behind last Sunday week is also cast aside.
“I wouldn’t have felt we left it behind,” says Keane. “I could see the argument. Dean Rock had a chance of kicking a winner at the end of it, so had he scored that there would have been no leaving it behind, we’d have lost it. I suppose with any young team, what did we have, we had 11 fellas that started in an All-Ireland for the first time.
“We had two fellas who came on in that game so that was 13 fellas playing in their first All-Ireland final. So in many ways you’d have said, ‘Jesus this is great’ because you’re getting another shot at it, another opportunity to build on it.
“But look, you’re not too worried about going forward today. You’re just disappointed with today’s result and you worry about that in the next few weeks or months.
“What I would say is that even today I would be terribly, terribly proud of the lads. They fought with their shoes on until the end and literally had to be carried out of there. Throughout the year they’ve given me the same and of course it’s disappointing we lost the league final here and we’ve lost an All-Ireland final here. But look that happens.
“There was a lot of learning. It was a year that even looking into championship, what were the top six teams in the championship? Dublin, we drew with. Donegal, we drew with. Tyrone, we beat. Ourselves. Cork we had beaten in the Munster championship. Mayo we’d beaten in Killarney. So there was certainly no easy route to this for a young team and you’d hope they learn from that. But by and large we’re reasonably happy but you’re not happy to lose an All-Ireland final.”
And that history being celebrated down the corridor gets its moment inside here too.
“They’re after winning five All-Irelands in a row, it’s a historic day,” says Keane. “No matter what was going to happen today, they were either going to win five or not win five. There was going to be history one way or the other. And look you have to compliment them and congratulate them on their achievement.
“If you want to put a positive spin on it, you’re thinking that but at the end of the day you’ve lost an All-Ireland final and you go away and you lick your wounds and gather yourself and come at it again next year.”