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Dublin blueprint a lesson for Kerry

It is upon us once again. Championship fever will grip the country once more for the next four months.

There has been a lot of talk regarding this year's football All-Ireland and how it is the most open for a long time. In some ways I can see how people have come to that conclusion. But in my eyes it is going to be between three teams once again. Kerry, Cork and Dublin.

There is a second tier in which I would place Kildare, Mayo and Tyrone. All three could beat one of the favourites on any given day but I don't see them having enough to go all the way.

There are a lot of challenges facing Kerry. Their forward line is still the most potent in the land, but it is in their defence where my worries would lie. I believe they must look at the Dublin defensive strategy developed by Pat Gilroy over the past few years and take notes.

The problem last year was in the concession of big scores. If that can be prevented from happening this year, there is no doubt that Kerry will do enough damage at the other end to win 99pc of matches.

The new square ball rule is something that is of concern. The full back line could possibly be Shane Enright, Marc Ó Sé and Killian Young, three super players in their own right. But there is a lack of height in there and if a team decides to drop a lot of high ball into the square, then it could spell trouble.

That is why I think there will be huge onus on Daniel Bohane to make the step up and claim the number three jersey. There is no doubting his capability to do so, and if he does, I believe Kerry will win the All-Ireland. He has had his problems with injuries but he is coming into form at the right time.

Cork, current favourites in my eyes, will have plenty to say about that, however. Should they beat Kerry in Munster, it could provide the latter with the impetus to kick on again for the latter stages.



CONSISTENT

But the Rebels have been the most consistent team in Ireland over the past three years. Their age profile is perfect for making an assault on the title. They will start with Aidan Walsh and Alan O'Connor in midfield with Pearse O'Neill and Nicholas Murphy as cover. That is a formidable foursome.

Their forward line is settled and there is a feeling that injuries cost them a lot last year. My worry for them, however, is that despite having excellent individual footballers, they sometimes struggle to operate as a cohesive unit.

They have tried to use the league to experiment bringing some variation into their play.

Walsh spent a lot of time in the full-forward position and fared well so that is now an extra option to go with the running game that they have employed under Conor Counihan.

I believe it could be a last hurrah for Counihan. There is also the possibility of Walsh and Ciarán Sheehan opting for hurling under Jimmy Barry Murphy in 2013, so it could also be one final push for this group of players.

They are more than capable of winning another All-Ireland, but as we saw when they were shocked by Mayo last year, they are also capable of getting caught cold.

And what of reigning champions Dublin? There is no doubting that they have the ingredients required to put titles back-to-back. However, like all teams who are defending All-Ireland winners, the question will be about their hunger.



desire

Can they go to the well a second time? Will they be prepared to go through the hurt and the pain needed to get to that level once more? Do they want it as much again?

Losing Mickey Whelan's knowledge is a blow, but Gilroy has proven himself to be a shrewd operator. Their defensive system, mentioned earlier, is perfectly executed and they are very much a team. The obvious talent up front in the shape of the Brogan brothers should be supplemented by further improvements from Diarmuid Connolly and Eoghan O'Gara.

So it is those three who are the All-Ireland contenders in my book.

Let the games begin.


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