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Sunday 11 December 2016

Rivals all set to rock Croker again

Dublin legend recalls how 1987 League final showed rest of Ireland Kerry could be beaten

Kerry’s Colm Cooper and Dublin’s Bernard Brogan.
Kerry’s Colm Cooper and Dublin’s Bernard Brogan.

For Dublin, there's legacy issues.

For Kerry, there's the chance to put one on their recent oppressors in an important match and...well, Dublin's legacy issues.

Either way, there's much, much more than a league title at stake on Sunday week when the two get it on in Croke Park again.

"To beat Dublin," Barney Rock replies immediately when asked whether the annexation of a 20th League title or an afternoon of superiority over Dublin is the more palpable motivation for Kerry.

"They will look at it as a bit of redemption. Try to get back and beat Dublin. To show that they can beat Dublin."

Which is a complete reversal in the relationship between the two from when last they played in a league decider.

Rock played that day in 1987 when Ciarán Duff scored a brilliant goal and Declan Bolger made a compelling case that he might be the next Brian Mullins as the Dubs showed the rest of Ireland that Kerry could, in fact, be beaten.

Stuffing

"At that stage," Rock recalls, "we'd been beaten in a Leinster final by Meath (the year previous).

"Kerry had won three All-Irelands (in-a-row). All the talk at that stage was that they were going to win four and that they were going to go on and win more.

"We would like to think that by us beating them in the league final, it probably knocked the stuffing out of them. And it probably gave Cork a little bit of belief.

"And Cork went on then to win the next three or four Munster titles.

"So there is a lot riding on this game. And I suppose there's a lot riding on other people because everyone will be up for Kerry to beat Dublin because it will give those other teams a sign that (Dublin) can be beaten.

"It has the makings of a great final."

The notion that you can't beat Kerry often enough carries plenty of water in Dublin but there are other motivating factors.

A win on Sunday week would make it a fourth title on the spin, pushing their case for greatness.

"I think they might be remembered as the greatest Dublin team," Rock has no hesitation about suggesting.

"Let's be honest. In the 70s, we had a great team. They won three All-Irelands.

"If this current Dublin team actually go on and win another, you would expect that they would be considered the greatest.

"It's hard to compare eras. There were great Dublin teams in the 50s and 60s who put just as much effort in. The team of the 70s were in six Leinster finals in-a-row.

"This present team hasn't done that. It's close to it and the likelihood is that they will do it but they haven't done it yet.

"The team of 70s has won three All-Irelands. This team has won three. And this team is going on to try and win four league titles so there are comparisons with the 70s team.

Wannabes

"Our team of the 80s got to three finals in-a-row but we were beaten by Kerry twice (1982, 1985). So I'd say this team and the team of the 70s will be the ones people will remember.

Rock adds: "But once you win an All-Ireland, you'll be remembered."

There is probable cause to suggest that Kerry and Dublin are a distance in front of football's wannabes just now.

"They're one and two in the league and then there's the team that I fancy to get to the All-Ireland final from the other side of the draw: Tyrone.

"But listen, Dublin have a great record. This will be their fourth league final (in-a-row).

"At this stage, Jim Gavin has been involved with the under-21s. He has a great record with that and seniors. And he has a great of players to pick from. But it's a fickle thing - having the upperhand on a team," Rock argues.

"It was very seldom we would beat them two championship games in-a-row. But look, the game has moved on. If you looked at the way football was played then, you'd be saying we play puke football.

"But look," Rock adds, "it was still Kerry/Dublin.

"It tends to bring the best out of one another."

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