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Saturday 1 October 2016

Sheehan: Dubs stole 2011 Sam from our hands

22 August 2016; Bryan Sheehan of Kerry during a press event at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
22 August 2016; Bryan Sheehan of Kerry during a press event at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Bryan Sheehan believes Dublin "stole" the 2011 All-Ireland and has intimated that their recent Championship dominance over Kerry owes a substantial debt to luck.

"I felt we were the better team," he recalls of the '11 decider, Dublin's first Championship win over the Kingdom since 1977 and a win which engendered an unprecedented period of superiority since.

"I'll go on record: they stole that one off us. We let it slip through our hands."

Sheehan's is not a lone voice but his take on the two more recent Dublin Championship wins represent something of a bullish declaration from the Kerry captain.

While agreeing with many observers that the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final was "probably one of the best games ever played," Sheehan stressed his contention that Kevin McManamon, whose goal tipped that match comprehensively in Dublin's favour, was "going for a point more so than a goal," when he lobbed Brendan Kealy in the 70th minute whilst the teams were level.

Slipped In

"Just slipped in," he added. "They won it. Then I think, 2015, (in last September's All-Ireland final) we just didn't perform to our capabilities," Sheehan went on.

"So I think we're more than capable of beating Dublin. Fear is not an issue."

Sheehan's comments may echo the overriding sentiment of a county unaccustomed to such comparatively fallow periods - Kerry have won one of the past six All-Irelands, well below their traditional strike rate - but they also vocalise a palpable local unease with Dublin's pre-eminence.

Starting with Pat Gilroy's term in charge and bleeding into Jim Gavin's, Dublin have also won six of the last eight League matches against Kerry which, when combined with the changing of the Championship relationship between the two, caused Sheehan to observe: "I don't see how they can be hungrier than what we are. They are the All-Ireland champions.

"Beaten us in 2013, 2015, in the league - if you haven't got more in the gut to win a breaking ball or track a run than what Dublin have, then something is wrong with you.

Dethroned

"They don't like losing to Kerry. They've an All-Ireland title. They don't want to be dethroned."

Nor have Kerry much enjoyed losing to Dublin of late.

It has, many have noted, caused an uneasiness within footballing's most noble aristocracy and infused this coming Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final between the two with significance far beyond the prize of a final spot for Kerry.

Perhaps inevitably, there has been a movement among the chattering Kerry masses to attribute cause to Dublin's population and/or their county board's rude financial health.

A slightly snobbish variation on the theme is the contention that Dublin have constructed this era on a foundation of a team with superior fitness and physicality, rather than football nous or skill.

"They are very athletic," Sheehan noted of this very theme.

"They're not hiding the fact that they have these coaches in there, athletic coaches, telling them they have to run 100 metres in a certain time and if you don't make it, you won't be on the panel."

Sheehan went on to suggest that Dublin's reputation has caused teams to approach them tentatively.

"If you're asked to go backwards, if a team can get a sustained period of dominance, maybe ask questions going the other way, then we'll see how fit they are," he concluded, "how much energy they have."

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