Kerry's Vital Curtailing Of Fenton And The Evolving Dynamic Between Gavin And Defence

Kerry's Vital Curtailing Of Fenton And The Evolving Dynamic Between Gavin And Defence

The need for Kerry to stifle the influence of Brian Fenton was one of the main tactical talking points going into the drawn All-Ireland final. Would they deploy Jack Barry in the role for which he had become typecast?

Peter Keane did not ignore the evidence. He brought Barry in as a late switch to the starting line-up and assigned the Tralee man as Fenton’s chaperone, a job he had done effectively for the Kingdom in the past.

Barry did not end up marking Fenton for the entirety of the game as Dublin looked to switch Fenton onto David Moran.

Still, Kerry kept the Raheny midfielder’s influence far below where it had been throughout this championship by ensuring none of their kickouts were aimed in his direction. They also managed to block his runs.

Going into the September 1st match, Fenton had an average of 27.33 possessions over the six games he played.

In the semi-final against Mayo, Fenton touched the ball 30 times. Against Kerry, that number was nearly cut in half to 16.

In total this championship, the 26-year-old has scored 3-8, making him Dublin’s third top scorer from play. Against Kerry, Fenton - for the first time this summer - did not even have a shot.


Likewise, Ciaran Kilkenny was also not allowed a shot for the first time in his six 2019 championship appearances.

In regards to Fenton, it was exactly what Kerry needed to do and what they will again need to do again if they are to remain as competitive in the replay.

However, if Fenton’s influence returns to its usual high level, it will be extremely hard to prevent Dublin from winning the five-in-a-row.

* * *

Kerry made their way to the dressing room for half-time of the drawn All-Ireland four points down.

Had they been more accurate - and in particular taken better advantage of a ten-minute purple patch between the sixth and 16th minutes - it could have been them up by four, or maybe more.


In all, Kerry squandered nine first half scoring chances, plus another goal chance from Stephen O’Brien which went over the bar.

2nd minute: David Clifford left-footed shot from the left goes wide right.
6th minute: Paul Geaney has shot stopped on the line by James McCarthy.
8th minute: Clifford skied shot under pressure from Jonny Cooper collected by Jack McCaffrey.
10th minute: Clifford right-footed shot from the right goes wide left.
13th minute: Paul Geaney missed penalty.
14th minute: Stephen O’Brien shot for goal goes over for a point.
15th minute: Paul Geaney right-footed shot from the right goes wide right.
16th minute: David Moran right-footed shot goes wide right from 35m.
20th minute: Sean O’Shea shot drops short and is fisted away by Stephen Cluxton.
30th minute: Paul Murphy right-footed shot from the left goes wide left.

Kerry did not take those chances but Dublin should not ignore that they were created. Most were missed not due to pressure from Dublin defenders but uncharacteristic inaccuracy.

Going in the first clash, Kerry had a shot efficiency of 59 per cent from play this championship. That has dropped three per cent following the drawn game. Dublin’s has also dropped by one to 61 per cent. Kerry are more accurate from placed balls with an 86 per cent success rate compared to Dublin's 81 per cent.

A rejig of the Dublin defence, possibly just in terms of which Dublin defenders will take responsibility of each Kerry forward, seems possible. Jonny Cooper struggling to cope with David Clifford and subsequently being sent-off shortly before half-time will also give Jim Gavin reason the ponder how he sets up.

That will likely be decided by a collaborative approach between players and management.


“They would co-develop that plan and that strategy,” 2011 Dublin All-Ireland winner Barry Cahill told Balls before the drawn final.

“There would definitely be conversations among the group. Jason [Sherlock] takes the forward side of the coaching where as Declan Darcy does the defensive end.

"I would say there is an open dialogue between players and management team. There would have been a huge amount of video analysis done. They have a really good backroom team to do that.

“The players are so mature and experienced in the Dublin set-up at this stage, the management team would value their input as to who they feel would match-up correctly.”

Cahill believes that the dynamic between Dublin players and management has evolved over Gavin’s seven years in charge of the team.

“From memory, in the early part of the Jim Gavin regime it would have been very much, ‘This is the deal, this is what we’re going with and these are our match-ups. We’re confident in our ability to do it’.

"Possibly, as everything has evolved over the last two to three years, that dialogue has opened a bit more, purely because the players have got to know the management a lot better and vice-versa. Naturally enough, you develop a lot more trust among the group as the weeks, months and years go by."

From how each team sets up to how it all plays out, it is going to be a fascinating game.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

See Also: From Running Down Cul-De-Sacs To Being One Of Kerry's Main Weapons

PJ Browne
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