Kingdom reclaim Sam, but Galway can hold heads high

Kerry bench compliments Clifford class

Kerry’s Jason Foley pictured celebrating at the final whistle with Paul Murphy and goalkeeper Shane Ryan following their success against Galway in Sunday’s All-Ireland Football Championship final in Croke Park. Pic: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The Sam Maguire Cup will be spending the winter in familiar territory after Kerry claimed their 38th All-Ireland senior football title last Sunday. They were made fight all the way by a Galway side who were ultimately found wanting not on the field of play – but on the strength (or lack of it) of their bench.

The exploits of David Clifford and Shane Walsh have been (rightly) lauded in the analysis since, but as the match entered the last ten minutes it was the Kerry subs that made such a big difference. In particular, Killian and Adrian Spillane added punch to the Kerry attack while down at the other end Galway’s subs had no such impact.

It was a hugely enjoyable final, and some of the point-scoring from David Clifford and Shane Walsh was phenomenal. We saw two of the great final performances of all time on Sunday last.

It was just as well from a Kerry point of view that Clifford was at his very best because Seanie O’Shea was marked out of it by Liam Silke and Paul Geaney and Paudie Clifford were peripheral figures.

Galway’s scoring hero Shane Walsh pictured looking dejected following Sunday’s All-Ireland Football Championship final against Kerry in Croke Park. Pic: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Galway had their problems too. After a great year up to Sunday, Damien Comer was largely anonymous and Rob Finnerty never got into the game. Still, with Shane Walsh playing as he was, the Tribesmen were always in with a chance. Mention too of Cillian McDaid, who had his best game of the year at midfield – scoring four great points from play – and John Daly too, who was very effective going forward, especially in the first half.

In the final analysis, and after a very poor first half for Kerry in general, Clifford was key man and he was given considerable assistance at half-time with the arrival of the Spillane brothers. Other Kerry men who did well on the day were Graham O’Sullivan and Gavin White, the latter one of the players of the year.

Remarkably, neither goalkeeper had a shot to save in the entire game. But the standard of point-scoring, especially from the aforementioned Clifford and Walsh, certainly made up for that lack of goalmouth action. Kerry were favourites for the All-Ireland from the start of the year. They just about deserved to win it.

With Dublin ‘coming back to the pack’ there is optimism among several counties that they can compete at the highest level. Armagh, Derry, Mayo, Dublin and Tyrone will all feel that they can get back to the mountain top in the next few years. However, history has shown that once Kerry have the bit between their teeth they tend to be the team to beat and that may well prove to be the case over the next few years. Their age profile is very young and that’s a worry to everyone else.

Should Roscommon be included in the list of those who might challenge in the coming years? Not on the evidence of the past two or three years, but being in Division One of the league is not a bad place to start.

It was surreal watching an All-Ireland senior football final in the middle of July. Next year the GAA hope to squeeze a much longer season into the same timeframe. I wish them good luck with that. I am one of those who thinks that the season is far too short and that the All-Ireland finals should be held at the end of August at the earliest.

Up in the RTE commentary box Pat Spillane shed a tear as he spent his last day as a pundit on The Sunday Game. At the end of the day his beloved Kingdom are back on top of the Gaelic football tree. It will be hard to get them down too.

 

My 2022 All Stars

My 2022 All Star Team: Shane Foley; Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Chrissy McKaigue; Tadhg Morley, John Daly, Gavin White; Brian Fenton, Cillian McDaid; Rian O’Neill, Seanie O’Shea, Ciaran Kilkenny; Damien Comer, David Clifford, Shane Walsh.