Friday, August 24, 2007

Spillane The Beans on Kerry's Success

Pat Spillane, talking to Uncle Des on RTE Radio 1's Drivetime Sport on Wednesday evening, spoke about the simplicity of Mick O'Dwyer's approach to managing his great Kerry team.

Never, said Spillane, in all of the hundreds of team-talks before matches and after training sessions, did 'Dwyer' ever as much as mention the opposition. Neither their tactics, nor their star players were given the slightest consideration by the Waterville wizard.

The belief - reinforced without possibility of question by the record books - was that if Kerry went out and played their game, the fact that they were better players in every position would assure victory. That superiority complex - the sense that the identity of the opposition is irrelevant, that they were oblivious to the quivering fifteen they had to play - was the key to that team's success, as it is to any dynasty.

The interview with Spillane was similarly brilliant in its simplicity, by the way. Give the guy a microphone and get him to talk about his part in the greatest team of them all. Spillane's ubiquity in the GAA media might blur for some the clarity and articulacy of his commentary. Many have bemoaned the fact that his role as anchor for The Sunday Game has effectively neutered much of his potency as pundit.

He was, after all, in the vanguard of the 'new wave' of RTE sporting punditry that came along in the 1990s (himself, Brolly, O'Rourke and Loughnane in GAA and Hook and Pope in rugby being the Sex Pistols and the Clash to Dunphy and Giles' groundbreaking New York Dolls), the author of the still-stinging 'puke football' rebuke.

One of the many transfixing moments in the interview concerns, unsurprisingly, the Kerry and Dublin rivalry of the era, which has its latest revival this Sunday. Dublin had won the All-Ireland in 1976 and 1977, enjoying famous victories over the Kingdom each time, the latter season featuring the classic All-Ireland semi-final which has been revisited so often in recent weeks.

Spillane detailed how the tide was turned: "We learned from the defeats of '77 and '76...we sat down and looked at our performance and we felt we weren't putting in as much training as Dublin; they were fitter than us, they were stronger than us. They were more determined than us. We noticed that when Dublin fouled, or when Dublin hit, they hit hard. When Kerry fouled it was a pull on the jersey. We felt they were knocking us around. The only way we could succeed against Dublin was to go toe-to-toe with them; to take them head on.

"The first chance we got to do that was in a game to raise money for Sister Consilio's home for alcoholism in early '78....the game became a bloodbath. But it was the day that Kerry stood up to Dublin. After the game there was broken noses and a lot of rancour. It was a filthy game. I think we won. But it was the turning point; it was our watershed moment, that no longer were we going to be pushed around. Then we got the missing piece in the jigsaw in the 'Bomber' (Eoin Liston, who first appeared for Kerry in that season) and that was it.

Great stuff. Will Sunday be Dublin's turning point?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankfully it wasn't to be for the Dubs. All sympathy for them and desire in neutrals for change evaporated once the Dubs used scumbaggery as a weapon in goading their opponents when the missed. Kerry, showing true class rose above it. It was a victory for football, rejoice!

11:17 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We demand more almanac! Sport does not sleep!

4:32 p.m.  

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