Paul McStay: Dubs’ youth holds key to final fantasy
SO Kerry are holding Paul Galvin in reserve for Sunday’s All-Ireland decider? We think not, and expect the Finuge dynamo to start for the Kingdom.
There is a fair degree of nonsense spoken and written in the build up to All-Ireland finals. The clichés thrown out about ‘having to lose one to win one' and ‘experience being everything in a final' hardly stack up, do they?
For instance, what about first-time winners on All-Ireland Final day? The Donegal team of '92? And then Derry, Down, Armagh and Tyrone? They came, they saw, they conquered.
Of course I realise Kerry have won an amazing number of All-Ireland finals, but hey, they've lost a fair few of them too. While ‘Gooch’ plays in his eighth final this weekend, and already has four medals to his name, he must reflect on three finals where he departed a most disappointed man.
Who will win then? My overall sense of the match is one that should be a real classic as both teams will go for the win based on a framework of defence allied to speedy transition to attacking platforms.
Dublin and Kerry are primed to play this way and I expect a great game with Dublin narrowly winning the day – by three points at most, perhaps.
You might find my selection surprising – I have backed Kerry all the way for glory from way back last May, but as the countdown continues I find myself nodding in the direction of the Dubs.
They have lost to the eventual champions in each of the past three years and their time has surely come.
Let's look at the match-ups. Dublin win the goalkeeping contest hands down as Stephen Cluxton has taken his art to a new level.
His kickouts will be significant and the expectation is he will get the ball to a colleague more often than not.
His counterpart between the Kerry sticks, Brendan Kealy, is a very fine shot stopper but you can expect he will be tested early on with some high ball.
Man for man, the Dublin defence does not compare well with the Kerry back six. But that was the reason Pat Gilroy changed the structure dramatically.
It means, despite having played the same number of championship games each, the sum of the Dublin defensive parts has only conceded two goals in their five championship games to date while the Kingdom boys have given away five.
Cian O'Sullivan will trail Gooch Cooper and Rory O'Carroll will take on Kieran Donaghy, who needs to be strong if Kerry are to win this one.
Will Ger Brennan be able to mark Declan O'Sullivan at 11? Will he go tight and man-to-man and sacrifice his own game for the cause of the Dubs? If they hold Gooch, Declan O'Sullivan and Donaghy it's game over, but that scenario is highly unlikely.
I expect midfield to more or less break even and if one side gets the nudge it might be Kerry because of their superior use of the ball when they have it in their hands.
This will not be a defining sector of the field or the game; traffic will be of the rush-hour variety and the champion of the breaking ball will be the king-maker.
Enter Galvin and O'Sullivan and their shadows Bryan Cullen and Paul Flynn. This is going to be one of the great contests and is likely to replicate the Kilkenny-Tipp contest as they go in search of the ball and the honours.
They say defences win games and the attackers decide by how much. Each team can boast of two brilliant exponents of the offensive game:Cooper and the afore-mentioned O'Sullivan in the green corner will know the Brogan Boys in the blue corner carry serious threat levels also.
But All-Irelands are very often decided by the contributions of the unheralded players and perhaps Kieran O'Leary or Barry Cahill will swing things for their side.
In the end it will boil down to one key aspect, a part of the modern game that very often decides the winners from the losers.
And that ingredient is Dublin's deep conditioning and youth, which should allow them engage the opposition early and often with real intensity and legal aggression.
I expect this tempo will be maintained throughout and will prove too much for the older Kerry team.
This aspect of the Dublin game plan is a given. They will apply it immediately and the possession that will accrue from it should provide the opportunities to get the winning scores.
Dublin will have to be smart with those possessions, for the strong suspicion is Kerry will need far less of the ball to carve out the win.
It promises to be a Titanic struggle then, a classic and a game we badly need to bolster a football championship year that has been low on real quality this summer.