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Beating Kerry is never a bad ploy for Dubs

'2011 was definitely our most significant league win' - Cahill

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POINT TO PROVE: Cormac Costello will be eager to state his case to new Dubin manager Dessie Farrell. Pic: Sportsfile

POINT TO PROVE: Cormac Costello will be eager to state his case to new Dubin manager Dessie Farrell. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

POINT TO PROVE: Cormac Costello will be eager to state his case to new Dubin manager Dessie Farrell. Pic: Sportsfile

And so, the Dessie Farrell era starts here - in Croke Park, against Kerry, who else?

One theory is that with the five-in-a-row heroes just a fortnight back from Bali, playing catch-up on the rest, and with the new manager still finding his feet as he attempts to fill the biggest shoes of all, tonight doesn't matter.

Barry Cahill begs to differ.

Then again, if you had spent the vast majority of your county career trying - and failing - to slay the green-and-gold, you might feel the same way too.

Prior to the watershed year of 2011, Cahill had featured in seven outings against Kerry - four in the league and three in the championship - and never beaten them once.

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TURNING POINT: Barry Cahill in action for Dublin against Kerry’s Eoin Brosnan (right) and Donnchadh Walsh during the Allianz Football League clash in February 2011. Pic: Sportsfile

TURNING POINT: Barry Cahill in action for Dublin against Kerry’s Eoin Brosnan (right) and Donnchadh Walsh during the Allianz Football League clash in February 2011. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

A league stalemate in 2006 was as close as he'd come. Three defeats in the All-Ireland series - by seven points in 2004, a gut-wrenching two in '07, and a humiliating 17 in '09 - had cut deepest.

And when in February 2010, the post-earwig Dubs had won on Kerry soil for the first time since 1982, the St Brigid's clubman missed it through injury.

Pivotal

This back story helps to explain why Cahill views what happened in GAA HQ the following February - Dublin edging past Kerry on a 3-10 to 1-15 scoreline - as of p ivotal significance. "Going back to 2011, for a few of us we still hadn't beaten Kerry," he recalls.

"I've no doubt that league victory over Kerry in Croke Park, earlier in the year, definitely helped with our approach heading into the All-Ireland final later in the year. We hadn't beaten them in the championship either for the guts of 30 years, so we definitely saw value in coming through a tight game in Croke Park against Kerry.

"I missed the 2010 game, but Pat (Gilroy) was obviously trying new guys because he'd pretty much ripped up the script that winter and was starting afresh.

"I think Kerry were only back a couple of weeks from holidays after winning the ('09) All-Ireland, so naturally there would have been a bit of rustiness and probably baggage there. Whereas the game against Kerry in Croke Park was round three of the league, so teams were well up and running at that stage."

It proved a roller coaster affair. "Bryan Sheehan had a free, the last kick of the game to equalise it, that just tailed wide," says Cahill.

"I just remember in the dressing-room afterwards, lads spoke about this being a significant victory. The likelihood or the hope is that we would end up getting to play them in Croke Park later in the year, that was the ambition, and this was a win of note. Because we just weren't used to beating people in Kerry jerseys."

Sometimes such matches, even as they are dismissed by victorious managers with that familiar "sure it's only February" refrain, carry real psychological significance.

Cahill cites last year's thriller in Tralee as a big positive for a young Kerry team in the build-up to their drawn All-Ireland final with Dublin.

In essence, Dublin/Kerry always matters to those directly involved. Even when you've feasted on the last five All-Irelands and even though you've won five and drawn one of the last six SFC showdowns with your one-time nemesis.

"The feeling that I've got from guys, since Dessie took over, is they need to prove themselves," Cahill stresses.

"So, even though they were on a team holiday in Bali, the nature of that group is lads wouldn't be getting carried away in terms of losing their edge or their fitness. They'd still be in reasonable shape coming back to training a couple of weeks ago.

"And for a lot of these guys, it's their first opportunity to impress the new management team. And it's just human nature that you're really going to be motivated to do your best, because you want to get off to a good start.

"I mean, we've seen the strength in depth of that squad - the 30 or 35 that they have on their panel. You can't really afford to have too much of a drop in form, particularly up front, with the standard of players that are available.

"So, it will be interesting to see if a couple of the newer guys get a run - the likes of Collie Basquel or maybe Conor McHugh," he continues.

Pecking order

"But there's other lads there, the likes of Cormac Costello, even Paddy Andrews, who'd be hoping to get some game time on Saturday and try and move up the pecking order compared to what they were under Jim - because none of them were top-six forwards in Jim's eyes."

Harking back to his own playing days, it was fitt ing that Cahill's crowning glory in 2011 came against the one team Dublin had always struggled against.

"At times we did get very close to them. There were a couple of games where we felt we maybe could have got over the line," he says.

"But that Kerry team from that decade was absolutely phenomenal. We knew we had to be at our absolute best and probably needed a couple of things to go our way, just to get that breakthrough.

"The team was evolving then under Pat Gilroy as well, but they were the standard-bearers for the majority of that decade. And whether you played them in March or played them in August, you'd have to bring your A-game to it.

"It was definitely, I would feel, our most significant league victory of any period - that Croke Park win in 2011."