Thursday 18 January 2018

Dublin are ready

Ambush in '09 is history and Gavin's troops have weapons to lower Kerry

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton. Photo: SPORTSFILE

WOULD it be reasonable to suggest that on the back of two wins against a faltering Donegal and a limited Tyrone side that the hype machine in Mayo may already be a few notches too high?

Following last Sunday's victory over Tyrone, Mayo have once again showed the qualities of All-Ireland contenders and deservedly take their place in this year's All-Ireland decider after finding answers to the Tyrone onslaught of the first 20 minutes.

With either Kerry or Dublin now set to join them, regardless of what happens this Sunday, Mayo will more than likely go into the final as favourites to win. So it's a strange dynamic considering the traditional footballing powers of Kerry and less so Dublin will battle it out this Sunday and go into the final as underdogs against a team that have struggled on All -Ireland day too many times in the past.

So while James Horan can take the opportunity to analyse his potential opponents this weekend, Jim Gavin and Eamon Fitzmaurice will not be looking beyond this Sunday's game.

Kerry and Dublin games are special days in Croke Park and it's a traditional rivalry that will outlive us all eventually.

It's hard to put a finger on the connection between both counties. Is it the warm welcome us Dubs receive when we go to the Kingdom. Have they hoodwinked us for nearly 30 years with the cute Kerry hoorism of 'yerra yerra' while they quietly beat us out the gate in championship football between 1977 and 2010. 'Be nice to the oul' Dubs and don't get their back up' may be the sword we have perished on!

Putting aside the healthy respect between both counties, what we do know is that playing Dublin will bring the best out of the Kingdom. It is no secret that the people of Kerry view the Dubs' 2011 All-Ireland success as a game they lost rather than a game Dublin won and with a lot of the same personnel on duty this Sunday we can expect a backlash from a group of players who have a winning pedigree.

So not unlike Tyrone, the question hanging over the outcome is how influential can an ageing pedigree of experience be versus inexperience, youth, flare and pace, and how far will it go in deciding the outcome of this game?

Jim Gavin will know that his team's collective performance will need to improve and he will be all too aware that any lapses in concentration or periods of dominance by Kerry could prove fatal.

As much as Kerry will arrive focused and driven by the sight of the blue jersey, deep down they know that this Dublin team has more potential than any team they have faced from the capital over the past 20 years.



Dublin must ensure that they prevent Kerry from a fast start and they must dominate the early exchanges to allow their confidence to build.

Kerry have opted to leave Kieran Donaghy on the bench, which indicates that they will approach the game in the same manner as the first half against Cork and they will look to get early ball into their full-forward line who have the ability and low centre of gravity to create scoring chances at will.

Donaghy will now form part of Plan B for Kerry and will be utilised from the bench if Kerry need to change the structure of their team or are chasing the game, and his presence will test the Dublin full-back line under the high ball.

They also do have the option of switching Colm Cooper inside to the full-forward line where he will be afforded a little more space than he would be against the likes of Tyrone or Donegal, but the form of Declan O'Sullivan remains a worry and Cooper was also instrumental in everything that was good about Kerry in the Munster final.

Any potential switch by Cooper may release Darran O'Sullivan to the half-forwards and he will try curb the influence of Jack McCaffrey going forward.

Kerry's dominance against Cork in the first half came from the hard work of midfield pairing of Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley, proving once again that the midfield battleground for Dublin will be a crucial area.

However, in order to compete for dominance in midfield, Kerry must push up on Cluxton's kickouts, going man-to-man with Dublin's back six. If Kerry do this as expected, Michael Darragh Macauley's primary objective will be competing with Maher in the aerial exchanges and he may have to sacrifice his powerful running game where he would hold a significant advantage.



This tactic of pushing up on the kickouts is one of risk for Fitzmaurice as his major concern will be whether his defence is strong enough to cope with the Dublin attack. With both forward lines averaging 2-16/2-17 per game, this encounter has the potential to be a high-scoring end-to-end game and the cohesion of the Dublin forward line is where Gavin will be looking for improvement.

Dublin have scope for improvement up front and whilst they have been creating scoring chances at will, their final execution and pass at times has been poor. It's the one key element of their game that they must get right and if the front six perform collectively as a unit, there can only be one winner.

A lot has been made of the 2009 ambush by Kerry in the build-up to this match, which in my opinion is a load of rubbish. What happened back then is history and analysing the present day based on history is fraught with danger.

So can the traditional, sentimental view from the Kingdom in the build up to this match outweigh the underlying strengths of both teams and result in a victory for Kerry. Darragh ó Sé this week outlined the mindset of the Kerry footballers when facing the Dubs.

"Kerry fellas would always have this feeling that the Dubs would be half mocking them and that any game against them would be a chance to put them in their place. You'd always believe you could beat the Dubs," he said.

Yes, this game will bring the best out of this group of Kerry players and they still possess one of the best forward lines in the modern game, no doubt. But this is their last stand – so, is there one more big performance in them.

All the indicators signal that this is a meeting of two teams heading in different directions and Kerry will need everything to fall into place for 70 minutes if they are to beat the Dubs.

There are 82,000 people waiting with anticipation. These are special days and let's hope we get a game to be remembered. Kerry will believe they can win, but this Dublin team will be ready and it will be their day.

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