It’s a 70 minute plan
The team Eamonn Fitzmaurice has named for Sunday indicates he plans to treat this game in much the same way as the Munster Final. Kerry will look to start fast and use their veterans on the bench, in particular Eoin Brosnan, Bryan Sheehan, and Kieran Donaghy, to close the matter in the final quarter. In terms of single game execution, the Munster Final was brilliant work by Fitzmaurice. Kerry started with a hard tempo and built up a lead to hang on to when their legs got tired. There will have to be adjustments because of the style and pace employed by Dublin.
Containing Dublin’s full-back line should go to plan, at least in the first half, as a hard pace by Kerry will demand a more cautious approach from the last line. The manner in which Kerry dominated Cork’s half backs and midfield will need to be adapted. Dublin won’t stand off as deep and will look to challenge more in the middle third. This will present issues as Kerry will need to be wary of counter attacks. High balls, which hurt Dublin in the first half against Cork, likely won’t be a major weapon. Kerry may use them to open up space but a more direct running game should be expected given the personnel starting. Likewise Fitzmaurice’s line-up makes this strategy an all-or-nothing approach. If Kerry can’t use this plan to have a significant lead entering the final quarter their options will be limited as their bench can’t replicate the pace of their starters, particularly in the full-forward line.
Action81.com is up for several awards at Blog Awards Ireland, check out our supporting material here.
Productivity and profligacy
Everyone knows the easiest way to beat Dublin, make them shoot less. Nobody has found a way to do it yet. In the Tactics Board I pointed to the Dublin half-back line as a key area the Kingdom needed to close down but the attacking approach Kerry will likely use makes this difficult. This presents a balance problem for the Kingdom, particularly on the counter attack where Jack McCaffrey will look to push high. McCaffrey’s run force an overload on one side and can cause major issues for a defence. Then there’s the issue of Dublin’s work up the spine. Cian O’Sullivan is no attacking maestro but he does enough of the unglamorous work in midfield to allow Michael Darragh MacAuley and Ciaran Kilkenny to operate as a tandem up the centre on the pitch. This creates several opportunities for Dublin to use their full-forward line both inside and on the flanks.
The problem for Jim Gavin is in accuracy. The pace of Dublin’s game ensures a high number of shots, they have averaged 39 per 70 minutes compared to a national average of 27, but they are missing half of them. It’s not that Dublin create a lot of shots in the course of victory, it’s that they need to in order to win. A deviation from the norm is unlikely as Dublin have stayed remarkably close to their average through their four games to date. If Dublin put up 39 shots, they likely deliver 20 scores. This makes the arithmetic for Kerry easy.
Please vote for ‘Action81 – Waiting for the Boom: Lockdown in Cowper Downs’ here.
The Kerry defensive challenge
One area where Kerry have remained at the top in recent years has been in restricting frees from favourable positions. It was adopted out of necessity against Donegal in last year’s All-Ireland Quarter-Final and an approach Fitzmaurice has stuck with through his reign. The defensive commitment required however is significant and this is where the middle third battle is going to play a big role. Kerry have opted for pace in their full-back line so they must force Dublin to target them and reduce focus on the Kilkenny-MacAuley tandem. The balance issue will require McCaffrey being checked by a forward, Declan O’Sullivan would best fit the bill in terms of pace, but the natural fear here is that such a move could limit the Kingdom’s attacking options. There’s not much benefit in lowering Dublin’s shot count if the process has a notably adverse effect on Kerry’s own ability to create chances.
Fitzmaurice is smart enough to know that Kerry must be in a favourable position entering the final quarter. The team he has selected reflects a strategy built around an early start. Everything however rests on their defensive success. In terms of bench depth, Mayo are the only team in the country that can hold a candle to Dublin. Gavin’s plan is built around a close-it-out strategy. If his side can enter the last 20 minutes in command, all well and good, but his chief aim is to make sure his opponent is damaged. That way when he rings the changes, Dublin can push the tempo hard and ease away. Fitzmaurice is not playing for damage limitation, which is laudable, but he doesn’t have a winning hand here. Gavin has too many options at his disposal. There will be adjustments in this game but Dublin have the better arsenal and it should be enough to fire them home. Dublin to win.
Read more Tactics not Passion columns here.
Follow Emmet Ryan on Twitter.