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Former Mayo star Willie Joe Padden (centre) with GAA greats (from left) Peter Nolan, Mickey Whelan, Mick O'Dwyer, Jimmy Keaveney, Billy Morgan and Donie O'Sullivan at Croke Park where Padden was inducted into the All-Ireland Kick Fada Hall of Fame. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Former Mayo star Willie Joe Padden (centre) with GAA greats (from left) Peter Nolan, Mickey Whelan, Mick O'Dwyer, Jimmy Keaveney, Billy Morgan and Donie O'Sullivan at Croke Park where Padden was inducted into the All-Ireland Kick Fada Hall of Fame. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Former Mayo star Willie Joe Padden (centre) with GAA greats (from left) Peter Nolan, Mickey Whelan, Mick O'Dwyer, Jimmy Keaveney, Billy Morgan and Donie O'Sullivan at Croke Park where Padden was inducted into the All-Ireland Kick Fada Hall of Fame. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

IN 2009, Dublin – under Pat Gilroy's management and coached by Mickey Whelan – were humbled by 17 points by a Kerry team so deep in the long grass, the tops of their heads weren't visible even to the most studious observers of football in the Kingdom, a match memorable as much for Gilroy's "startled earwigs" barb as its launching of Kerry's last successful All-Ireland quest.

Two years later, Dublin pipped their oldest and most storied of footballing rivals by a point in one of the most memorable All-Ireland SFC finals in history, a testament to the epic reconstruction job performed by Gilroy and Whelan in the intervening two seasons.

Yesterday, the Herald caught up with Whelan at the induction of Willie Joe Padden into the DAA Kick Fada Hall of Fame to asked him about Dublin, Kerry, 2011 and next Sunday's big duel.

Conor McKeon: What are your abiding memories of the 2011 All-Ireland final?

Mickey Whelan: Just, I think, when the goal went in. There was uproar in the place really. The place actually started to shake. And then Cluxton coming up for the point. There was never any doubt that he would do that.

He has done a very good job this year but I'm also thrilled to see Bryan Cullen back involved. He seems to be back in a central way. He had a very, very good game the last day (against Cork).

CMcK: What had changed most since the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final?

MW: We conceded an early goal against Kerry in 2009 when we took over the team and they fell apart. But they haven't fallen apart since. One of the things we talked about then was: 'when would you rather concede a goal in a tight match?'

'In the first minute, when you have 69 minutes to get over it? Or in the last minute, when you have less time to get over it?' This team have come to terms with it.

CMcK: After 2009, was there a deliberate targeting of Kerry given the nature of the defeat?

MW: Well we were hoping to set that in train. That's what we worked on, breaking down all the psychological garbage that goes with defeats. We worked hard on getting that out of the system.

CMcK: How?

MW: Success and outlining different goals and objectives and reaching those goals and objectives where they started to believe again and see that they could do this. And beating teams that had beaten them in the past and stripping all the myths about them. Working just man for man on that.

CMcK: With regards to Sunday, would you prefer to be managing a team with Dublin's pace and guile or Kerry's experience and achievement?

MW: Sometimes people with a lot of medals have their best years behind them. Some of them have four, five and six All-Irelands. But I think in the last five or six years, Dublin have a very good record against them in League and Championship. So it's going to be an interesting game.

CMcK: Is the Dublin defence an area for concern?

MW: I actually think that the year we won the All-Ireland, the full-back line were the best full-back line in the country, even though none of them got All Stars.

Donegal got three All Stars in defence that year and they had 10 players back the whole time. So there is very good strong back up.

They used 10 of the (All-Ireland winning team) in the starting 15 the last day (against Cork). And of the five subs that came on, four of them were 'originals' as well. So it's a good combination. They're playing well.

CMcK: Is Bernard Brogan's diminished scoring return a worry?

MW: He's not scoring as much. But once he starts to get into it and works as a team player, all that other stuff will come back to him. Once he starts moving the ball around, he will start getting passes in space for shots.

CMcK: Do you think Kerry will play 'Gooch' in the full-forward line?

MW: I don't, actually. I think they'll play the O'Sullivans (Darran and Declan) inside. They're very quick and have good, low centres of gravity. They could be a threat for early goals.

CMcK: Will Dublin secure enough ball in midfield if Kerry push up on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts?

MW: I don't think that they have always made him kick it into midfield. He's a brilliant goalkeeper and he's a great lad and he's doing a phenomenal job as a captain. But he's a very composed guy and he has an accurate kick.

But if they push up, they're leaving the midfield less covered. You have to look at games and decide what is 'Plan B' in this situation.

CMcK: Will some Kerry players see Sunday as a revenge mission?

MW: I don't think so. I think what happens there is, they have regrets. They regret that because they came close. But I mean Kerry have won a lot of All-Irelands, exactly as we won that one. So that's how they have so many. It's going to be a very interesting game and there will be a tactical dimension to it.

And with Kerry, you never know. And that's the trouble. The thing about Kerry, which in my view, makes them beatable is, they had a 0-11 to 0-2 point lead against Cavan the last day and they only got three points in the second half. That's unusual.

CMcK: Who will win?

MW: I think Dublin will because they're a very confident team. They have a lot of success behind them and that builds confident. And, I think they're a very mobile team.

Jim Gavin is doing is a very good job with them. They're playing good football. They have a very good chance of winning another All-Ireland.


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