AS uncomfortable as Dublin footballers get once they have to play outside of Croke Park, there is little doubt that Jim Gavin's men will travel to Killarney this Sunday as favourites to make it two wins from two in this League campaign. At least that will be the way the bookies will call it and we all know how well-heeled a bookmaker is. Dublin's 1-18 to 2-9 win over Cork last Saturday night was impressive. At least as impressive as Kerry's defeat to Mayo was unimpressive. With players like Bernard Brogan, Ger Brennan, Paddy Andrews, Diarmuid Connolly and Michael Darragh McAuley to call on, there is certain more weight and experience about Dublin right now than there is with Kerry, who are notoriously light on experience right now.
Nevertheless, what the bookmakers probably won't factor in to their odds is that Kerry generally react to a humbling defeat with a snap and a snarl: that's good for the Kerry GAA public and generally bad for the next opposition. The game is also on in Fitzgerald Stadium, and as much as any GAA field is a fortress to a county, then Fitzgerald Stadium is that fortress to Kerry. Sure, they lose there now and again but not very often. And Dublin don't win there too frequently either.
There's no doubt that Kerry are going to have to raise their game considerably from last Sunday's unacceptable showing, and they are going to have to maximise their chances and increase their scoring considerably. Dublin will be high on confidence and with Brogan and Connolly capable of shooting the light out - even away from Croke Park - the Kerry defence is going to have to be tighter and meaner and more disciplined than they were against Mayo.
There may be recalls for Jack Sherwood and Paul Geaney, while Tomas O Se will definitely be brought back in to add some steel and menace to the defence. Dublin would be a real test of Sherwood's emerging talent as a centre back, but if he is to be handed his stripes for this one then Kerry also need Peter Crowley's energy and aggression in there too.
Geaney is the type of forward that could trouble a rookie Dublin corner back, and Kerry may need to explore a different option other than lumping ball into a two-man full forward line in which Patrick Curtin seems low on confidence right now. James and Michael O'Donoghue showed plenty of industry against Mayo and they will need to bring that and more to the party on Sunday. However, both played a very withdrawn role in Castlebar and the key to beating the Dubs might be to lead up the Kerry attack and ask more question of their defence than Cork did last weekend.
The expected departure of Johnny Buckley leaved the midfield options very light, where Anthony Maher and a clearly not fully fit Bryan Sheehan will have to go up against McAuley and whoever else Gavin decides to pair him up with.
Dublin in the second round was always going to be a tough game for Kerry considering Kerry were going to have more of their marquee names unavailable. Last weekend's set of results would appear to make it an even harder assignment for Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his reasonably young team.
At this stage a home town win might be a bonus. Certainly a victory for Kerry would be regarded as a great result for Kerry. What is absolutely necessary is a performance. That, for now, might do.