Dublin loomed large in the Kingdom’s psyche for the best part of a decade, beating them was a form of liberation
When Germany united after almost fifty years’ separation in the early 1990s, it wasn’t as if a switch was flicked and every difference between the two sides – the old socialist east and the capitalist west – disappeared overnight. It took time to integrate the east into the western economic and political order. It made for quite a lot of economic and social pain.
Even with a real commitment on the part of the federal government to make the process as painless as possible, it still bred inequalities, resentments, disenchantment.
No matter the redistributionist transfers from west to east, a lot of people in the east were left with what’s been described as ‘Mauer im Kopf’ – literally a wall (as in the Berlin Wall) in the head. Meaning a sort of mental blockage for certain people, something they struggle to ever get over.
The shock to the system such that they might not ever come fully to terms with the new Germany. Once beyond the initial euphoria of the wall falling, the wrench it forced might even go as far as to be considered traumatic.
Watching the Kingdom on Sunday we couldn’t help but think that they too were suffering a little from their own wall in the head, their one painted vividly in sky blue and accompanied by strains of Dublin in the Rare Old Times.
It might be going a bit too far to describe the experience of a series of championship defeats to the Dubs as traumatic, but in the context of Kerry football, its history and traditions, maybe it’s not that much of a stretch.
The Dubs loom large on the Kerry psyche. The immovable object to their irresistible force. The team that no matter how well they play against them – the 2013 and 2016 semi-finals especially – somehow manage to come out on top. Even for the younger Kerry players, with much less of that sort of baggage, 2019 is a defining moment. Seared into their collective consciousness.
We’re stuck with the notion that some of the way the Kingdom seized up a bit in the second half was down to that. If not by fear then by caution not to be caught again.
To be fair, Dublin had quite a bit of say in how the game played out after the break, upping their game considerably, their bench having a much greater impact than the Kingdom’s (unexpectedly so), and their energy levels rising dramatically in concert.
Kerry were listing for a time in the wake of Cormac Costello’s simply sensational goal and, while they held firm, they weren’t playing with the sort of assertiveness you’d have hoped. For a lot of the game it felt like Kerry were going to win it relatively comfortably and, yet, here they were, hanging on almost for dear life.
That they did hang on and did scramble over the line, in the end, speaks to their resilience and undoubted class (did somebody say Seán O’Shea?). The way Kerry celebrated that win felt more like liberation than anything else.
With the full-time whistle, Kerry’s ‘Mauer im Kopf’ came tumbling down. Now that it has we think it’ll be a different story when these two next come face-to-face. Watch the Kingdom fly from here on out.
Limerick stand on the brink of ultimate glory
It’s not just what they stand to achieve, it’s who they’re going to have to stare down in the process of achieving it.
Probably it makes their task that much harder, and if it does, as it should, that will make their victory all the sweeter if they manage to pull it off, as they should.
On Sunday afternoon we’ll have the benchmark of the modern era up against the county and the coach which set the benchmark in the first place. That Limerick are so often compared – and compared favourably – to Kilkenny is amongst the highest compliments that can be paid.
In the last half decade under the management of John Kiely it’s as if they’ve taken the Kilkenny template and made it their own. Their values such that Brian Cody would be proud to call them his own.
There’s a humility to this Limerick squad, which might seem at odds with the notion that some people have of them as brash upstarts. We wouldn’t at all view them in that light. The work they do, the dedication to the basics they demonstrate every time they take the pitch, that comes with humility.
God knows they’d have reason to have swelled heads by now with nobody coming within touching distance of them since, well, since the last time they played Kilkenny in championship.
Kiely though – and Paul Kinnerk and all the rest of them – has inculcated such values and an ethos in this squad that they take nothing for granted (except maybe this year’s National League, which is fair enough quite honestly).
When you think about their best hurlers it’s not only the brilliance of their hurling which stands out, it’s their physicality, their willingness to put bodies on the line. It’s form, function and finesse all operating in tandem.
Kyle Hayes, Gearóid Hegarty, massive men, massive talents, mentality monsters as Jürgen Klopp would say. It’s hard to imagine Limerick being out-flanked, and more pertinently, out-worked in the manner in which Clare were by Kilkenny in the All Ireland semi-final.
Clare were certainly disappointing, all the same it really was a phenomenal performance by the Cats last day out. There was a ferocity to Kilkenny in the first first half that recalled them at their peak.
Being fair to Kilkenny it wasn’t just work rate and brilliant defence – Mikey Butler had a game for the ages on Tony Kelly – their shooting was sensational too, up around the 90th percentile in the first half.
They’ll not find Limerick quite as accommodating as Clare naturally enough, and it’s unlikely Limerick will be quite as discommoded by Kilkenny’s intensity as the Banner were.
The way Limerick were able to hang in there and cope with Galway in their semi-final, again showed the steel these Limerick men are made of. That gut-check, coupled with the one they got in the Munster final, should seem them perfectly positioned for Sunday afternoon.
They’ve had the greater test, they have the better hurlers pound-for-pound, they might even have the greater incentive, to etch themselves into history with a first three in-a-row for the county.
Then again this is Kilkenny we’re talking about here. This is Brian Cody. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth half the effort.
Glass half full, or maybe half empty, for Ferrari
Just what they needed, when they needed it most. To win, to win well, to win on track against the benchmark. To win in their backyard. To put wins back-to-back.
Here it was, evidence at long last that for all their recent stumbles and fumbles – even in winning in Silverstone in the previous round the Scuderia fluffed their lines in having accidentally prioritised their number 2 driver over their number 1 – Ferrari are back in the game, back in the hunt.
For their main main, Charles Leclerc, it was a particularly sweet sort of an afternoon after a a couple of months from hell, where despite winning pole position after pole position, wins, finishes even, eluded him as his early championship lead over Max Verstappen evaporated and turned into a sizeable deficit.
Sunday’s victory took a chunk out of that disadvantage. More importantly, though, it gave Leclerc reason to believe again, after looking close to a broken man, and certainly a disenchanted one, after the team’s flub in Northamptonshire.
He did it the hard way too, with three on-track overtakes of Verstappen. Not a man known for his accommodating nature. All good then, all positive? Not quite.
Ferrari were on for a 1-2 finish in Austria last weekend until Carlos Sainz’s engine went boom, and we really do mean it went boom. It was a proper old-school engine failure.
Plumes of smoke, followed by flames that left the Spaniard scampering out of his cockpit with necessary haste. It was a reminder of just how fragile the beautiful looking F1-75 is.
Particularly its engine, which seems to have been really pushed to and beyond its limits in search of performance as the engine freeze came into force at the beginning of this season. Tweaks can be made for reliability so in the long term, Ferrari will benefit from taking the risk.
In the short term, however, it means that Leclerc can ever feel too confident his car is going to finish the race. One step forward then. One step back. Glass both half full and half empty simultaneously.