Colm Cooper believes Kerry should’ve won the All-Ireland at the first attempt against Dublin – but doesn’t think the Kingdom have missed their chance.
The 1-16 apiece draw will instead have raised expectations that Kerry can stop Dublin’s march for five-in-a-row.
“The expectancy has gone up in Kerry because, if we’re honest, I don’t think we knew if we were up at Dublin’s level, and how we would perform,” Cooper told the AIB GAA Podcast.
“They certainly showed that they are there or thereabouts, that they’re knocking on the door, and on another day… they probably should have won it.
“We’re not kidding ourselves, Dublin will be better and if I analyse the game, I would say four to five Dublin players would be happy with their performance. Outside of that, I think there’s a load of room for improvement.”
However, he believes Kerry’s scope for improvement means they haven’t blown their shot at glory.
No, I don’t think so. They certainly had their chance and should have won the match. Kerry have a lot of quality in the team — I know there are a lot of young players there and that’s why I think the second time around, they should be even more comfortable in Croke Park.
“If you had said David Clifford, Paul Geaney and Stephen O’Brien wouldn’t be the chief scorers for Kerry, the Dubs would have bit your arm off for that before the game. So there’s improvement in those guys, and I think that’s what Kerry are feeling.
“They coped well. The big questions for Kerry the last day were how would they cope with Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion? They did pretty well, as well as any team over the past number of years.
“That’s why people are so encouraged and it’s leading into the match where people think Dublin will improve, but I think there’s another 10% in Kerry as well.”
Cooper believes that Kerry can limit the impact of man-of-the-match Jack McCaffrey in the replay, which could go some way towards getting the win.
Counterintuitively, he believes Dublin being a man down for much of the final benefitted the Dublin speedster.
“I think Dublin going down to 14 men suited McCaffrey because the Kerry guys were puzzled and passed him on saying ‘you pick him up’ and it took away the accountability and responsibility of guys — and you can’t do that with Jack McCaffrey. He’s in a league of his own in terms of how he attacks.
What I would like Kerry and Peter Keane to do is: whoever is picking up Jack McCaffrey, your focus is solely on him, and don’t worry about what’s going on around you.
“Last day I was working for the radio and, when I was looking down, Jack McCaffrey spent most of his time operating in the centre-forward area, and was running onto things and the Kerry guys weren’t sure who was to pick him up. That’s not good enough from a Kerry point of view and Peter will do a lot of work on that.
“Will Stephen O’Brien pick him up, will someone else? We don’t know but I would be surprised if Jack has the same impact as the last day.
“Similarly, Sean O’Shea was given way too much space by Dublin in the second half and ended up kicking three points from play after half-time coming through the middle of the Dublin defence — something you never see. Midway through that second half, I think there was a bit of chaos and you probably wouldn’t have seen that if both teams had fifteen — it would be more structured.”