Friday 28 October 2016

Dublin holding the aces in final face-off

Former Dublin forward anticipating a huge tactical battle in Sunday's Croker decider

Dublin manager Jim Gavin
Dublin manager Jim Gavin
Dublin’s Vinnie Murphy celebrates after scoring his goal against Kerry in the 2001 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final in Semple Stadium, Thurles

Vinnie Murphy recalls with some wonderment the Kerry All-Ireland homecoming of 1997.

"They were considered the worst Kerry team to win an All-Ireland and all this stuff," he told The Herald.

"I was thinking 'in Dublin, if we fell over the line - which he did in 1995 - we'd be regarded as heroes ... which we were."

Which brings him to his point about this Sunday in Croke Park.

The current bunch are considered a good Kerry team, even by the pernickety locals.

There are just enough of the last great Kerry team of the noughties still doing it and there's plenty of youth dabbled in there, too.

Throw into it that in éamonn Fitzmaurice, they have a manager liked and regarded in every corner of Kerry and deemed one of the craftiest in Ireland and the Kingdom's legendary self-regard couldn't be much higher at the moment.

And yet …

"The only way I can see Kerry winning is if they play two sweepers and park them there because I just think Dublin could win this game with 40 per cent possession if it goes 15 on 15," Murphy reckons.

"If they win, they'll be happy enough. But if they play a defensive style and they get beaten, they wont like it at all."

"They've changed over the last couple of years. If you went back a couple of years ago and said that Kerry were playing with a sweeper or two sweepers, they'd have 'taken the head off you'.

"Are Kerry going to go 15 on 15? I think if they do that, there's only going to be one outcome. Dublin would run all over them."

"So they're going to have to play someone back there and maybe even two."

High stakes stuff. Though Fitzmaurice has already crossed that particular threshold in last year's All-Ireland final when his Kerry team aped the less classical stylings of their victims, Donegal.


Something similar, Murphy reckons, will be required this Sunday. And for a very basic reason.

"It's simple. If you look at the Dublin panel versus the Kerry panel, I think the Dublin panel is stronger. They have better players," he reckons.

"Some of the Kerry players are gone past it a small bit. They've been on the road a long time. Great players on their day. And they're still good players but not at the level maybe that they were at five years ago."

Kerry have always used the element of surprise in their favour, which is probably why you had people climbing up trees to get a look at their training sessions last year.

"They try to 'hammer the hammer'," says Murphy, employing a local colloquialism.

"Donegal last year … their greatest strengths are their defence and Michael Murphy.

"Kerry didn't play O'Donoghue or Donaghy inside 30 yards of the Donegal goal.

"And Aidan O'Mahony man-marked Murphy.

"That sort of upset the rhythm of Donegal. Kerry will always look to take you on at your strongest point and if they do that, it's nearly the game won for them.

"This is where tactics from the sideline are going to come into it.

"There's no doubt that Kerry will try and come with something on Cluxton's kickouts. They always do.

"They're the only team that have been able to crack it.

"If they do play with a sweeper, if they say 'we have better forwards than Mayo. We're stronger around midfield. We're tougher to beat and if we got the chances Mayo got, we'd finish Dublin off'.

"And they played similar to that against Donegal in last year's All-Ireland final.

"They said 'you play a sweeper, we'll play a sweeper. Our 15 are better than yours'.

"So eventually the skills levels will shine through," adds Murphy.


"Are they going to allow Cluxton take the short kickouts? Mayo obviously felt if they pushed up, Cluxton would kick it in behind them.

"I just think, Kerry don't have that natural pace in their defence and they could struggle if they're left six on six.

"Kerry have an advantage in the middle of the park with regards to ball-winning - but so did Mayo.

"We'll probably see Cluxton kicking a little bit longer because Kerry will force that.

"But if Kerry are dropping fellas back," Murphy concludes, "I don't know how they're going to do that."

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