THE Kerry senior football county championship final. Kerry's little All Ireland.
The crowds will, as they have done down the decades flock to Austin Stack Park next Sunday as the lure of the championship final will prove irresistible to the true followers of the game. Fans will come from far and wide and not just from within the county, not by a long shot. Over the years I have met followers from the four corners of the country who simply love attending our county finals.
And why not? It is here that you will experience one of the secrets of Kerry. The atmosphere generated by the venue itself as thousands throng the stand and terrace and the fact that it is two clubs contesting the final will only add greatly to the color and the occasion.
The vivid red and white of Dingle appearing in a county final for the first time since 1951. They lost that year, beaten by Dick Fitzgerald', a combination of East Kerry teams, but mainly backboned by Dr Crokes greats such as Teddy O'Connor, Tadghie Lyne and Dan Kavanagh. And historically that Dick Fitzgeralds team was, of course, called after the legendary footballer who had captained Dr Crokes in 1914 to their last three in-arow success. And the Killarney men are bidding to emulate that great Crokes side of that long gone era.
And now to the Dingle men, what a tradition they too have behind them. They remain the only club whose colours were worn by Kerry in an All Ireland senior final. In 1939 as Meath also sported green and gold the counties tossed for choice. Meath won and played in their own colours, Kerry wore the Dingle (county champions) colours. Photographs of that winning side shows the team wearing black arm bands as a tribute for some then recently unknown departed Kerry Gael.
This was a common practice back then as a mark of respect and, sadly, it has now like many great Kerry GAA traditions been consigned to history. While Dingle had a few players from Lispole and the Gaeltacht in their ranks they literally dominated Kerry football from 1937 to 1951 contesting ten memorable county final, winning six. That 1951 defeat by Dick Fitzgeralds marked the end of the careers of such legendary players as Paddy 'Ban' Brosnan, Bill Dillon, Bill Casey, Tim Brosnan, Tom Long Tom Ash and others. The West Kerry divisional side also contested county finals with success as did An Ghaeltacht, while Annascaul and Na hAghasaigh were unsuccessful in their final appearances.
Kerry county final day for players and their mentors is a very unique and special occasion. Having experienced the atmosphere both as a player, on six occasions and a referee of six finals I can readily vouch for the fact that you will not experience a sporting occasion and highly charged atmosphere as great as this in any other county. Leading a star studded East Kerry team in the parade behind the Gill O'Brien band is one of my greatest sports memories. And it is this, the experience of the big day, which will in my opinion make a huge difference as the final unfolds next Sunday. Crokes are without a shadow of doubt the most experienced team not alone in Kerry, but in Ireland, second only at present I should add to Crossmaglen Rangers.
Their forwards have been, and rightly so, lauded for their scoring exploits. All six of their men are capable of raising white flags from both near and far. No other team in the county possess this richness of scoring talent and, of course, with Colm Cooper leading their attack they have the best, most natural, brilliant forward in the game to day. Let's just for arguments sake put forward a hypothetical theory if the Gooch was to line out for Dingle next Sunday what difference would it make in the betting?
Dingle are on a roller coaster of a year. On top of the county league, the true sign of consistency in any team and now in the county final. Their dedicated, long serving manager Murt Moriarty has a done a fantastic job in guiding them to this showdown. Their four wins to land them here, especially over Feale Rangers and St Kierans, were hugely impressive. They could have lost both games, but their fighting club spirit backed with their amazing goal scoring forwards has captured the imagination of the county.
What other club has scored four and five goals in big championship games this year. Paul ( pictured) and Daithí Geaney are superb players as are Brendan Kelleher, Darragh O'Sullivan, Billy O'Connor and goalkeeper Sean O'Flaherty, (son of Fergus the great Dingle publican and musician). They will be jumping out of their skins as they race onto the field. Their ravenous hunger for victory will be of a different nature than that of Dr Crokes, who have been around this very same block so often in recent years.
Six county final appearances since 2000 has thought players and mentors of the lake side town all the tricks of this proverbial football trade. While all talk is generally about the champions attacking force, their defence is equally as great. This is at times overlooked and in Fionn Fitzgerald, Shane Myers Michael Moloney and, of course, the outstanding and always consistent Eoin Brosnan, they have defenders as good as any in the country.
It's going to be a fascinating show down and I hope the referee will use common sense and as far as possible let the play flow and use the advantage to good effect. If Dingle are to bridge the sixty one year gap, they will have to continue scoring goals, match the Crokes at midfield and at least break even on the breaking ball, an aspect of the modern game at which Crokes are the supreme specialists.
Surprisingly Dr Crokes manager and former outstanding midfielder Noel O'Leary (he played league and championship for Kerry) mentioned after the semi- final win over Laune Rangers that his side were "a tired team". Yes they have a lot of mileage up and are on the road a long time, but I have fancied them before a ball was kicked as did all the pundits. If Dingle are to beat them it will have to be an all action fifteen man display from start to finish.
Hunger is the great sauce, Dingle will have that hunger, but Crokes are the old highly experienced dogs for the long road. I take them to complete their second three in-a0row and emulate the men of 191213-14.