Monday 11 December 2017

Paul Curran: Kerry will be gunning for revenge but Dublin are ready

Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against Jack Sherwood, Kerry
Kevin McManamon, Dublin, in action against Jack Sherwood, Kerry

Dublin and Kerry going head to head in an All-Ireland final is what I was brought up on. The first one that I can remember was 1976 when the dubs managed to dethrone the defending champions and went on to win it again in '77 having taken care of the same opposition at the semi-final stage.

That was as good as it got for Dublin with Kerry taking over in '78 and going on to capture four-in-a-row. The so-called great rivalry was revived again in the mid-eighties but it was bad news for us again with two defeats in the two finals in '84 and 1985.

From what I can remember growing up it wasn't much of a rivalry because Kerry always seemed to have the upper hand and in some cases like '78, '79 and '84 we were on the wrong end of a hiding.

After 1985 we had to wait a sixteen years before the teams would meet again in two memorable games in Thurles but yet again when it was all over Kerry had won again. Defeats followed in 2007 and 2009.Some rivalry.

It took Pat Gilroy's team in 2011 to halt the trend in what is still my favourite Dublin performances of all time. It was one of those days that Dubliners will never forget and it got the ball rolling for what has transpired in the subsequent years.

The teams met again two years ago in what turned out to be a terrific game of football but again Dublin produced a great finish to burn off the opposition in the final few minutes.

I think everyone is looking forward to next Sunday and although it won't define either team the pressure on both sets of players is huge. Kerry are still hurting from those last two defeats by the Dubs and will be going all-out to get some revenge.

The defeat in the 2011 final was particularly galling because they were in complete control late in the second half but a couple of loose hand passes from experienced players at the wrong time were pounced on, and the rest is history.

Kerry, of course, are the defending champions and for me are a lot better than they were twelve months ago. They have a forward line that is very dangerous, two of the best midfielders in the game but they are vulnerable at the back.

The one big difference about them this year is that they have three or four excellent players to come off the bench to finish games off. This is obviously a pre-planned tactic by Éamonn Fitzmaurice because the likes of Darran O'Sullivan, Barry John Keane and Bryan Sheehan are all good enough to start.

Dublin have a similar attitude to the bench and in the semi-final replay against Mayo all of the replacements had a massive impact and none more than Kevin Mac who has done some damage over the years.

I think Kevin should start this game. Fitzmaurice will have a plan to counter his introduction but he may not be prepared for him from the throw-in

It will be very interesting to see how both teams set up and indeed line out on Sunday. I would expect both managers to have something up their sleeves to try and get an early foothold in the game.

The Kerry management team have had a very good look at the Dubs in the last week and will have also looked at how Mayo didn't use the target man option very well.

It would be a surprise to see Kieran Donaghy in the full-forward line from the start but I do expect him to play a huge part in this final. There is no doubting the class of the Kerry forward line and with Colm Cooper back fit and hungry it will be a massive job for the Dublin backs.

Dublin too have a forward line that can go to town on you if you are not clued in so Kerry might set up ultra-defensively which is a system that they have become very comfortable with over the last couple of seasons.

It was probably a case of having to set up this way because the back unit as individuals would be vulnerable and when you are coming up against very good forwards you need to work on a system and stick with it.

Of the two teams, Dublin have better defenders and also have great cover in likes of Michael Fitzsimons, who may well start this game and John Small who has developed quickly under Jim Gavin

It is vital that Cian O'Sullivan is fit to take up his position at centre-back but we will have to wait and see if his injury has cleared up fully in time for throw-in.

So who will win this game and why? You could make a very good argument for both teams as both are very similar in many ways. Kerry have had a longer break between games which could be significant and as pointed out earlier, they have plenty of time to work on the game plan.

They will be fresh and they will be highly motivated for this one and that spells danger for us. This is all true but I think there is more pressure on them because of their recent results in big games against Dublin.

They were unfairly described as lucky champions last year so this year they are out to prove that last year was no fluke. Dublin will certainly have come on in terms of real match fitness after the two games with Mayo and are now primed and ready.

This team has absolutely no fear and are now only seventy minutes away from winning a third title this decade. That is something that no Dublin team has come close to achieving in forty years so the current team won't lack motivation.

It promises to be another great occasion but Dublin for me have the tools and the confidence to make it three wins over Kerry in five years.


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