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O’Connor not expecting a classic against Gilroy’s Dublin

JACK O’CONNOR says he would never embrace the ultra-defensive game plan adopted by Donegal.

Even now, a week out from the much touted ‘dream’ decider between Kerry and Dublin, a team that won’t contest the final is still featuring prominently in the All-Ireland football debate.

One of the great imponderables is how Kerry would have coped with trying to break down the Donegal blanket. But as O’Connor was quick to point out when asked this question at Kerry’s All-Ireland press day: “We’ve enough to do now to concentrate on Dublin rather than thinking about someone who might be in the final.

“All I’ll say about the (Donegal-Dublin) game is, look, sure both teams were playing within the rules. It’s up to every manager to try and set out the best way to get his team to perform.

“All I know is that if we tried to play as defensive as that, it’s not the opposition that would be booing us, it’s our own fans that would be booing us - so it wouldn’t be a runner in Kerry.

“I’m not disrespecting the football that any other crowd are playing,” the Kerry boss reiterated.

“I’m just saying that the tradition in Kerry is to play attractive, attacking football for the most part and that’s what the fans expect and that’s for the most part what we try and do. That’s about the only opinion I have on it.”

Mind you, when your county has amassed a record 36 All-Ireland senior titles, it must be stressed that you are not comparing like with like. Donegal have lifted Sam Maguire once, in 1992, and didn’t win another Ulster crown for the next 19 years, until Jim McGuinness worked the oracle last July.

O’Connor accepted this key difference, reflecting: “It’s almost a bit like Alex Ferguson with Manchester United - the tradition is there with playing attacking football and that’s what he does.

“I suppose if Kerry went ultra-defensive, the fans just wouldn’t like that type of football and we wouldn’t have the good will of the people. And sure if you don’t have that, what are you playing the game for?

“I’m not castigating. It’s up to any other manager to do what he wants. I’m just saying from our point of view, that’s the way we have to set out our stall.”

It helps when you have marquee forwards like Colm Cooper, Kieran Donaghy and the two O’Sullivans. On the flip side, O’Connor has placed equal store on defence during his two spells as manager, yielding three All-Ireland titles thus far. So it was no surprise to hear him predict a “tight” final, rather than a free-flowing classic. “I’m expecting it to be pretty defensive early on. Certainly I don’t expect it to be a shoot-out like you had in 2009,” he surmised.