AS much as this game could be billed as a showdown between Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy, the hugely anticapted meeting of champions Dr Crokes and one of the main contenders to their title, Austin Stacks, is about much more than just two players.
As central to their success as Cooper is, Dr Crokes are much more than just Gooch and a supporting cast, and as the Killarney club bid for a hat trick of county titles it's clear that the reigning champions have rounded themselves out to be a very balanced, talented and driven team.
Ditto Austin Stacks. While Donaghy is the marquee name on the Rockies team sheet, the Tralee club wouldn't be considered a serious contender for the title where they depending on a group of domestiques simply working around - and beneath - Donaghy. Like Crokes, there is talent in abundance in this Stacks panel, and manager Wayne Quillinan is continuing to sculpt his team into a formidable one, rightly considered one of the top club sides in the county - on their day.
Aside from the historical rivalry that exists between the clubs - both could be considered the top dogs in the county's two major towns - there is a new, recent rivalry that has been building between the clubs over the last few years. The teams met in the county final two years ago, which Crokes won, and last year Crokes dumped Stacks out of the championship at the quarter-final stage. The Rockies won't want to contemplate their county championship ending at the hands, or feet, of Dr Crokes for a third year running.
So, can Stacks stop the rot against the favourites for the championship? Vince Casey - joint manager of Crokes - is unequivocal on two things. He knows that Stacks are going to present the champions with by far the toughest test they will have faced in Kerry this year, and he firmly believes that if Crokes play to the maximum of their ability then they are good enough to advance to the semifinals.
"It's going to be very tough. Stacks have found a nice momentum at the right time and they are going to be hugely motivated for this game," Casey says. "We know we need to improve and we're hoping to get back to where we were this time last year, playing very good football. We will need to that if we're going to have a chance, but I feel if we play to our full potential then we are good enough."
Cooper. O'Leary. Casey. Buckley. Looney. O'Donovan. Moloney. Quinn. Fitzgerald. Myers. Doolan. The names of county champions and players with huge expe rience, skill and, crucially, self-belief. One name that has been intentionally omitted from
the list is Brosnan. The Kerry defender, Eoin, is struggling with a calf injury that has severely hampered his trainer, with his manager suggesting that the All-Ireland winner will miss Sunday's match. If that is the case Brosnan's absence could be incalcuable but what makes this Crokes team a great team is that they have reserves. Especially so with the return from abroad earlier this year of Mike Moloney and Shane Doolan.
Stacks aren't without their problems. For Brosnan insert 'Hogan' with Quillinan sweating on the availability of TJ Hogan who is nursing a cracked cheekbone and who is one the doubtful side of being fit to play on Sunday. Add in the long-term absence of the misfortunate Daniel Bohan and Stacks are down two defenders / midfielders they can illafford to be without against the champions.
On the plus side they have the ultra-competitive William Kirby ready and able to come into midfield where the 37year old is guaranteed to make like difficult for Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O'Donovan, provided Paul O'Donoghue gives adequate support wityh that boundless energy he has.
Throw in the experience of Barry Shanahan, Denis McElligott, Dara Long, Shane Carroll, Mikey Collins and, of course, Donaghy, along with the youthful exuberance of Ferghal McNamara, Ronan Shanahan, Shane O'Callaghan and Darragh O'Brien and Stacks could have that perfect blend that will surely be required.
"Dr Crokes are the team to beat, and if you're going to win a county championship you'll have to beat Crokes," is how Wayne Quillinan sees it.
"Beating South Kerry down there was a great result for us. A championship win like that gives younger players great confidence. But with all due respect, we know we will have to go up a few gears, at least, to compete with Crokes.
"I think we have progressed from last year but we have lost a few experienced players and we do have six or seven under-21 in the team. We will have to see. We will give Crokes the respect they deserve, but we won't fear them."