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Saturday 21 September 2019

Kingdom to reign if Dublin dip that small bit off best

Ó Cinnéide says Kerry will look to history and deadly forwards

Kerry’s David Clifford scored 4-4 in the 2017 All-Ireland MFC final and will be no stranger to the pressure of Sunday’s showcase
Kerry’s David Clifford scored 4-4 in the 2017 All-Ireland MFC final and will be no stranger to the pressure of Sunday’s showcase

"It's the hope that kills you. How could we beat Dublin? Can we beat Dublin?"

I've tasked Dara Ó Cinnéide with explaining how the aristocrats of Gaelic football can stop the 'Brúigh i gcóir Cúig' on Sunday at Croke Park. The 2004 All-Ireland winning captain ponders the question and reaffirms his belief in a Kerry upset: "Of course we could, course we could (win) on the 1st of September. But it's all predicated on Dublin dipping a small bit below the levels that we've come to expect from them.

"If that happens, Kerry are in with a right chance because they've enough quality to score enough."

Ó Cinnéide accepts that Kerry will have to do serious work to get themselves up to Dublin's level since the semi-final to shatter any illusions of a Dublin stroll.

"They'll (Kerry) probably focus an awful lot on themselves, and their obvious weaknesses that have been highlighted to them in public all year. Defensively, they're questionable at times and even on recent evidence, the semi-final, we just can't do sweepers - nor should we even try, it's just not in the DNA," he says.

"They'll try and address shakes in the kick-out that we've had all year. They'll iron out a lot of their problems but at the same time there'll be alot of positive stuff.

"I've been saying it all year, you know: 'Ok, we're not great but we're in an All-Ireland final.' You get exceptional players, the likes of David Clifford and Seánie Shea into an All-Ireland final, they're capable of anything, there's massive potential there.

"Add in players who are on form, the likes of Paul Geaney, Stephen O'Brien, David Moran, Tom Sullivan - try and get them to maintain their performance levels. You're talking six or seven players already.

"The theory always was that if you could get 10 players to play well in an All-Ireland final then you would more than likely win it. I think these guys are capable of it. I don't think they'll be daunted by Dublin. I think they'll be very much focused on what they have to get right first.

"Dublin are going to bring what Dublin bring. Every game that passes now you recognise that these are an amazing team. Let's forget about that now for a while and see what we can do, what we can bring."

The former An Ghaeltacht forward reckons that Kerry will look to history and take a leaf out of Offaly's book from 1982 as inspiration. "I was a big fan of that Offaly team - Matt Connor was my favourite player. They were better than Kerry for a day in September 1982. They weren't a better team in 1980, 1981. But they had their day and they got there and that is a lesson from history for Kerry people as well."

The accepted wisdom among certain quarters going into Sunday is that Dublin are unstoppable and that this young Kerry team are just that little bit short of experience when it comes to the pressures of an All-Ireland final.

Ó Cinnéide counters: "I'll use David Clifford as an example...it's only two years since he played in an All-Ireland final, with the greatest pressure that was ever on a minor footballer. Everybody in Kerry was saying: 'Look at this guy, he's the greatest footballer that ever played minor level with us. The opposition, the papers, the attention he was getting ... and he scores 4-4!

"I'm not saying the same thing is going to happen at senior level but the fact that he's able to do that ... When you have that in your team anything is possible. Now, the man could have an off day but the likelyhood is he'll still play well in the final.

"Couple that with the fact that this young Kerry team is learning with every game. They came from being four or five points down is a huge thing for them.

"History is what we're grabbing onto, we're clutching at that straw all the time saying Kerry beat Armagh by 10 points in 1982 in the semi-final, Offaly overcame Galway in a scrappy game. At half-time the last day against Tyrone, this is a scrappy game - if we come through this ... I was really surprised that swing was there. Four points down and they win by three? That's serious.

"And then you start to reflect on the game afterwards and say 'Ok, so Dublin beat Mayo last night by 10 points ... we beat them by 10 points below in Killarney. Either Mayo team aren't great, and we know Dublin are good, but it's not a fair yard stick."

He know it's such a cliché but for Ó Cinnéide this is "the ultimate 'It's on the day final' for us in Kerry".

He believes "Dublin will stick to their 'processses' and do what they do, or whatever they do, but for Kerry the thinking is we might as well have a crack at Dublin.

"Tyrone have had two cracks, Mayo have had plenty of cracks at it. This group have had no real proper crack at Dublin. I won't say it's a shot to nothing, you've an All-Ireland final to lose, but you could write a book on that. Kerry people have lost more All-Irelands than any team. That's our history as much as the winning. I think we've lost far more All-Irelands than any team has.

"So it's not a shot to nothing. I will be gutted if Kerry lose on the 1st of September but I expect them to perform. Even in the bad days when Mayo and Tyrone were having the pops at Dublin and Kerry weren't properly on the radar I was saying I still think we're the team to stop them, whenever it does come, that we will be the team to beat Dublin.

"The rational anticipation should be that the five-in-a-row will happen but we'll definitely think we'll stop the six-in-a-row if we don't stop the five!"

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