It was supposed to be a party. A special edition of The Late Late Show to mark the 125th anniversary of the GAA. There was a guest appearance by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, music by band Artane, and interviews with a host of GAA stars past and present.
For Darragh Ó Sé, it was a real ordeal.
The date was January 2009. For the third time in this decade, the Kerry mainstay had failed the previous September against Tyrone. One more uppercut from an elusive training partner who always seemed to be out of reach.
Ó Sé suffered a rare drought this campaign. No Munster title, no All-Ireland, no All-Star. Not that it should matter. Tonight in Donnybrook wasn’t meant to be for him.
An array of household names have come together including Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Henry Shefflin, Mick O’Dwyer, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, and Jamesie O’Connor.
The An Ghaeltacht native found himself sitting next to Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan. Mickey Harte was positioned just ahead. Surrounded and behind enemy lines, with Pat Kenny ready to deliver the deepest cut.
The presenter climbed the carpeted steps and began to chat. ” How are you ? Wasn’t that Kerry’s year?
Then he picked up a book and waved a photo over Kerryman’s face. It was from Dooher, lifting Sam Maguire on the steps of the Hogan booth.
“If you want to win next year, I just want to inspire you. How do you feel when you watch something like that?”
Mortifying for all and a regrettable way to honor a historic rivalry. The clashes at Croke Park were legendary and important. These two men played two teams that changed Gaelic football. The game is still taking the consequences.
2003 was the origin. The semi-final loss sickened the Kingdom, losing to a style of play they barely recognized. Two years later, it was totally different. This time they clashed. Main box office event rather than a pub brawl. Yet they lost.
Brick by brick, Mickey Harte built an empire from the ground up. After establishing a solid defensive base, he extended it onto the pitch. 15 defenders without the ball, 15 forwards with.
The position handle has been demolished. Dooher was the destroyer. He wore number 10 but was operating in the center of the vortex. Mark the deep and swarm tackle tracks that are now commonplace.
“Losing to Tyrone is worse than losing to almost anyone else,” manager Jack O’Connor wrote in his autobiography. As much as it was a blow, it was also a message. One image stood out from that 2005 game.
“Tyrone’s Brian Dooher, who is at least two stones lighter and a foot shorter than Darragh, puts his body in the way and stops him. He just stops Darragh in his tracks,” recalls O’Connor as he was watching the decisive moment. and even.
“Tenacity will be the mantra for next season. We’ll break tackles and tackle hard. We’ll tackle the way little Brian Dooher tackles Darragh Sé every time I look at the screen.
But first I have to go and I have to actually learn how to train the tackle. Really, I don’t know how to do it. The tackle is something we never hear from Kerry, beyond telling a guy to go out there and not mess the man down.
I am from South Kerry, where perhaps the purest football in the country is played. Tackling is like heckling a tenor during his solo. We love to see the skill of the game on the screen.
It was the goal. The days of wrestling and kick were over. Everyone had to evolve.
To pretend that Tyrone was purely more stubborn than their opposition would do them a grave injustice. Darragh Ó Sé knew it well, having been bypassed by Dooher for one of the biggest points ever in an All-Ireland final.
Heart, drive, determination, athleticism and artistry all in one. A magnificent score improved by what happened in the preceding period. Almost two minutes of non-stop action. A full block from Declan O’Sullivan denied Sean Cavanagh on one end, Pascal McConnell stormed his line to deny Tommy Walsh at the other.
The two teams jostled each other, the blows were relentless. It was in the midst of this sea of chaos that Dooher emerged. The flying captain recovered the ball in his own half and rushed forward, before firing a slanted shot with the outside of the right to bring the sides to level.
In his 2010 Irish Times column, retiree Ó Sé expressed his admiration for Tyrone’s effectiveness. Their ability to squeeze the most out of every facet and opportunity.
“Dooher justifies this approach. He doesn’t want anything at hand. He goes for everything. It’s a nightmare to play against, to move against, to win a ball that he shouldn’t win, to take tackles, to dispossess guys. .
“They have some guys in the game plan who, for lack of a better word, are mavericks. We let them do their own thing. Seán Cavanagh is one. Dooher another.
“That’s what makes the winners. The difference. The desire.”
It’s fitting that Dooher picked up the torch alongside Feargal Logan when Harte moved on. The team was at a crossroads. Close to the top without the ability to climb it. Another development was called for.
Tommy Griffin was also on the pitch for this 2008 final. The Dingle clubman was kicked off the bench after 50 minutes in place of Seamus Scanlon.
Having lined up in the back row for the previous two games, Griffin was brought in in an attempt to gain supremacy in the war zone of the middle third. Charged and frustrated at not starting, he roared onto the pitch and pulled Joe McMahon close seconds after his introduction.
The high closed-fist challenge resulted in a yellow card. A more skillful punch never came and the midfield battle swayed Tyrone’s path. With six minutes remaining, Sean Cavanagh gave them a one point lead. Kerry has lost five of her next six evictions. It ended in a four-point loss.
Griffin has already spoken about what they learned from Tyrone and how it has helped them. In 2012, those tough lessons were evident as Kerry headed for a ten-point qualifying victory thanks to a well-equipped defense paired with a hard-hitting offense.
Now he’s a tactical intellect tasked with sculpting Kerry’s defense. It’s a perfect role for his skills.
As a player, Griffin won five All-Irelands under three managers. The ultimate guardianship. He won the Minor All-Irelands because a coach was always likely to follow Peter Keane in the upper ranks.
Over the past decade, Kerry has regained some sort of pride with this qualifying victory over the Red Hand as well as two semi-final wins in 2015 and 2019. Nonetheless, in many ways, next week the challenge remains. the same. Lohan and Dooher had to strip down and rebuild, incorporating a more progressive attack structure while occasionally using their past defensive form to scaffold as they perform this rebuild.
Modern play is not detached from the past. Contemporary coaching buzzwords like protect the bob, plus, and transition are often derided and ridiculed, but that’s precisely what Tyrone did throughout the 2000s.
Is there a better example of an effective and efficient transition than Dooher’s point in 2008? Theories have been improved and refined, but not much is really new.
Kerry still has a bunch of attackers. Griffin and Keane work to develop a cohesive and voracious defensive unit that can complement them. Back to the future, both parties must invoke elements of the past to move forward.
The pace of work and Dooher’s value on both sides of the ball is something Tyrone can learn from. Kerry’s inability to strike a balance is a lesson the County should always pay attention to.
Many things have changed. More is the same.
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