Saturday 23 September 2017

Strength in depth can turn tide for Dubs

DUBLIN in this championship have beaten Laois, Kildare, Wexford, Tyrone and Donegal while Kerry have only beaten Tipperary, Cork, Mayo and Limerick twice.

Kildare and Tyrone were the two teams, aside from Kerry and Dublin, that I had shortlisted as the sides who could successfully contest for Sam Maguire, and Dublin beat both of those teams.

Yet in comparison, at no stage this year was I looking at the teams that Kerry beat as possible All-Ireland contenders. That's not Kerry's fault, they can only play the cards they are dealt so we didn't really get much opportunity to see what they can do.

If I was to really study both teams at length, I'd certainly say that Kerry are far better than their opposition in terms of ability and skill, and they won't be found wanting in the physical stakes either.

However, I feel it will be Dublin's day and the reason I think the scales are tipping in their favour is because of the way they played against Donegal. I thought their mental toughness in the second half of that All-Ireland semi-final was impressive, they battled away and withstood everything that was thrown at them. They finished strong, never lost their patience and didn't let the sending-off of Diarmuid Connolly affect them. It was a significant win for them and will give them an added bit of self-belief today.

Part of Dublin's game plan is to pull their half-forwards and midfielders back and to get Stephen Cluxton to kick the ball out to his men on the wings. This tactic will put an awful lot of traffic in and around the Kerry forward line. If they do that, they will be playing into Kerry's hands because Kerry have players who can kick scores from 55 or 60 yards out.

However, this tactic can bring problems. When Cork came at Dublin in the last five minutes of the league final, the majority of the Dublin players were back defending, but no one seemed to take responsibility for any specific player. The role of the defender is to pick up a man and stop him from scoring, and stop him from getting clean possession.

If Dublin feel that the way to stop Kerry from getting a big score is by crowding out the backs, that's fine, but they must also take into account that they will each have to take a man. They can put two people marking Colm Cooper, and two on Declan O'Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy, but they will eventually run out of players. They will have to face up to whichever man comes onto them or whoever they decide they are going to pick up and know that they can deal with whatever comes their way. To win they must pick up each of their men individually and be accountable for that player.

Of course the Dublin backs will have help too, there is no doubt about that, the likes of Denis Bastick and Michael Darragh Macauley fall back, Paul Flynn and Barry Cahill do it too.

Midfield is an area where I can see Kerry having trouble. The only replacement midfielder Kerry have in their ranks is Tommy Griffin.

That's not their only worry, there is a doubt over Eoin Brosnan's fitness and it wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't start. If this happens it will pave the way for Austin Stacks player Daniel Bohane to come on. By all accounts he is going well in training and this type of game will suit him.

In the run-up to the game there was a lot of talk about Jack O'Connor's decision not to start Paul Galvin and personally, I'm not too sure if it's a good idea to leave him on the bench. Although he is a great impact sub, the very fact that they didn't start him suggests to me that they don't have any other big inspirational players to come in after him.

Dublin have an advantage over Kerry in this respect, too, they have a stronger bench and immediately Kevin McManamon springs to mind as a great player to have in reserve.

I'm giving the nod to Dublin on the basis that they have overcome bigger challenges than Kerry this year. I think they have added hunger and drive because they have taken a lot of hard knocks over the last few years. When it comes down to it, I think they are going to stand up and be counted.

Sunday Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport