'Don't rule Kerry out' - Legend Jacko insists Kingdom will have fear facing up to champions
Jack O'Shea is backing his native Kerry to run Dublin "closer than a lot of people think" in this Sunday's history-defining All-Ireland decider.
O'Shea knows all about the perils of facing into a 'five-in-a-row final' as scorching hot favourites, having suffered the anguish of Séamus Darby's smash-and-grab winner for Offaly in 1982.
But the legendary midfielder is adamant that talk of making history - or denying it - will not be the primary motivation in the respective dressing-rooms of Jim Gavin and Peter Keane.
Instead, based on current form, he believes Kerry can travel to Croke Park with more than flickering hope of upsetting the odds and derailing Dublin's Drive for Five.
"If you look at Dublin/Kerry games, both teams are going to dominate for a certain amount of time. And it's whoever makes hay when they do dominate, and I think the same will happen next Sunday," O'Shea surmised.
"I think Kerry have no fear. They go in with a lot of confidence.
“Beating Dublin already in the league … it mightn’t have meant much at the time, but I think it will help their mentality,” he added, alluding to last February’s thriller in Tralee.
“This is a good Kerry team. They’re growing, and I think they’re getting better in every match. They’re learning. And, you know, I feel if they just get through the first ten minutes, 15 minutes, and are in the game, that they’ll be there or thereabouts.”
His faith in this emerging Kerry team is predicated largely on the potency of Messrs Clifford, Geaney, O’Shea and O’Brien up front.
“Kerry have good forwards,” O’Shea stressed. “And I think, if you were to pick six forwards out of the two semi-finals, you might have more Kerry fellas than Dublin fellas on it.
“So, with that, I’d give Kerry a chance.”
Moreover, the seven-time All-Ireland winner reckoned that their defensive vulnerabilities have been overstated.
“They have been improving,” he countered. “I think they have put in a very good performance against Mayo in Killarney.
“I think they had a very educational game in Croke Park against Donegal. I think Navan was a cauldron to go into, and I knew beforehand it would be very tough for them – and they did that.
“All those things will stand to them, and I don’t think there’s any team will faze them.
“These guys have won underage, so they know what winning is like … I think they’ll be closer than a lot of people think.
“Dublin have shown a little bit of vulnerability this year. Their first-half performances haven’t been great – so we’ll have to wait and see. I give Kerry a chance, I give them a shout.”
Either way, the four-time Footballer of the Year doesn’t believe that the pressure will unhinge either Dublin, as they stand on the cusp of history, or a young Kerry squad shouldering the responsibility of stopping them.
“There’s too much made of the five-in-a-row really. If you ask any Dublin player, this is another All-Ireland to be won. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first one or the fifth one,” he maintained.
“It’s going to be history for Kerry if they beat them – they’ll be spoken about for the next 50 years! And if Dublin win, they’ll be spoken about for the next 50 years.
“But from the players’ point of view, it’s an All-Ireland there to be won and I don’t think five-in-a-row or six-in-a-row or seven-in-a-row will ever come into it.”