UPSETS do happen. Remember 2007? Most people had South Kerry down as dead certs to complete the four in-a-row over Feale Rangers.
It didn't happen. It didn't happen because Feale Rangers refused to let it happen. They got in South Kerry's faces. They hit hard. They tackled hard. The got the vital scores at the vital times. The weather played its part on that occasion and if that game was played another nine times South Kerry would likely have won most, if not all, of them.
The thing to remember is that the best team doesn't always necessarily win. Looking at the two teams in terms of out and out talent there can only be one winner on Sunday and that's Dr Crokes, but as the we've seen before (2007 is just one example) that doesn't follow ever single time. If Dingle go out believing they're going to be beaten then they will be beaten – there's no team in the country more adept at exploiting the mental frailties of their opponents than the Crokes – but if they believe, like Feale Rangers did, then sure they can win this thing.
Most people will focus on their remarkable goalscoring pedigree in this year's championship – they're averaging three goals a game, four since the championship began again in September – but it's their defence that surely holds the key to victory in Austin Stack Park. They've conceded just a single goal in the championship to date so it's not like they don't know what they're doing back there, but to beat the Crokes they're going to have to take it to a whole new level.
They're going to have to do what Laune Rangers did to the Crokes in the first half of the county semi-final and unlike the Killorglin outfit they're going to have to maintain it over the full sixty minutes. They are going to have to drop men back. All teams drop men back and Dingle are no different. To counteract the Crokes, however, requires a bit more dropping back than normal. It mightn't be the most natural thing for Murt Moriarty and co to do, but it frustrates the hell out of the Crokes.
We suspect this is how Dingle will approach the game. Drop men back. Force Crokes out wide. Make their stellar forward division look as average as they did against Laune Rangers in the first half when they kicked nine wides. Then attack them on the counter with the power and pace and precision that they've brought to bear on teams all year.
Then again we could be totally off base here.
There's a school of thought that suggests that Dingle will instead go for the jugular early doors. Try to nab yet another goal early on and shake the Crokes' confidence in their game – this is a Crokes team that hasn't been in any significant danger at any point in any of their games so far this season.
The trouble with this is that for all Dingle's impressive goalscoring prowess they seem to lack a little something when it comes to scoring points. They scored five against Kilcummin in the third round. They again managed just five against St Kierans in the semi-final.
That's not good enough. It's most certainly not good enough when you consider that the Crokes defence is better organised than St Kierans' or Feale Rangers' or Kilcummin's. They've got Eoin Brosnan and Luke Quinn and Fionn Fitzgerald. If they struggled to score more than five points against Kilcummin and St Kierans then they're going to find Crokes a very tough nut to crack. It's for that reason that we feel that a low scoring contest would suit Dingle most.
Another reason why they might want to consider keeping it incredibly tight at the back is that midfield is at best going to break fifty / fifty for them. Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O'Donovan are having fine championships and while Colm Benny Moriarty and Darragh O'Sullivan have shown flashes of form, they've also drifted out of games. Take the Feale Rangers game as an example. They lorded the middle third for the opening twenty minutes. Once Anthony Maher came in off the bench, however, they struggled quite badly to get a foothold around the middle.
If you wanted to see all that was good about Dingle and all that was bad about Dingle that would be the game to look at. They played fabulous football when they were on top. As Rangers clawed their way back into the game, however, Dingle crumbled somewhat. If Crokes get a run on them like the North Kerry men did how will they cope? Because if Crokes do get a run on them they've got all the firepower in the world to make life miserable for Dingle.
You know the names – Colm Cooper, Jamie Doolan, Brian Looney, Kieran O'Leary, etc, etc – you
know what they're capable of. They've got the experience of doing it on the big day. They've got the experience of dealing with the blanket defence if that is, indeed, the route Dingle go down. The Crokes might have found the first thirty minutes against Laune Rangers frustrating, but they never lost their cool. They kept their focus. They kept their composure and when they needed that special moment, that little bit of class, they could turn to the Gooch and he'd fashion something brilliant out of nothing. Paul Geaney is capable of something similar, but not with nearly the same level of consistency.
That's the thing about Crokes. They're consistent. The metronomes of Kerry football. The well oiled machine that keeps on doing what it does and keeps on doing it so well.
Verdict: Dr Crokes