Sport Columnists

Monday 23 September 2019

Paul Curran: 'Kerry will get close, but Dublin have the quality to become greatest of them all'

Con O'Callaghan is one of many Dublin players who have improved on their already strong form of 2017. Photo: Sportsfile
Con O'Callaghan is one of many Dublin players who have improved on their already strong form of 2017. Photo: Sportsfile

Paul Curran

Next Sunday just before tea time we will be celebrating the greatest achievement by a team since the foundation of the GAA, or Kerry will be heading south with one of the most satisfying All-Ireland final victories in their illustrious history.

There is so much to play for in what is one of the most anticipated deciders for many years. Kerry, of course were the last team to have the opportunity to complete the ‘five’ but on a wet and windy day in September 1982 they fell at the final fence.

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It was a game that Kerry supporters and players will never be able to forget as they let a glorious opportunity slip through their hands. It was a game that they should have won but the footballing gods and some very poor refereeing decisions worked against them in the closing minutes.

I watched a couple of documentaries on the game recently and the hair would be standing on the back of your neck listening to the Offaly players involved on the day. It was a devastating blow to the Kerrymen but it was good for football in general.

Kerry, of course were able to dust themselves off, take a year out as Cork won Munster in ’83 and then come back and complete a three in-a-row in ’84, ’85 and ’86.

It was a very successful era for Kerry but I am sure if you ask the players they still have huge regrets about not completing the five in-a-row.

I wonder if Mick O’Dwyer and his players were transported back to the beginning of 1982 would they do anything different during the year or was the hype train too difficult to stop once it got ahead of steam?

There is no doubt that the Offaly players were able to prepare for the game without too many distractions and in the end they were able to perform well enough to win the game.

Dublin are in a completely different place in terms of outside influences and distractions and this side has been managed so well by Jim Gavin and his management team.

There are really no distractions to speak of and the team has been able to train away without the hype that would normally surround a team in their position.

I think the build-up to this game will be no different to every other championship game over the last five seasons and that gives the Dubs a massive advantage over their opponents.

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Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Kerry manager Peter Keane exchange a handshake after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 3 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee last Febuary. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Routine is very important in top-class sport and you can see clearly with this Dublin team that the next game is treated with the same respect and importance as the last one played.

They are masters at staying in the present which is another very important quality to have and it’s this quality that allows them to play the game no matter what the circumstances happen to be.

Two points up or two points down has no bearing on the next play and this is why they have been able to draw or win all the really tight games. It is an extraordinary tool to possess.

Kerry will have to produce something very special on Sunday and they will have to have the stamina to go to the very end and then they will need to have the bottle to close it out.

We have seen glimpses of what they are capable of in the opening half of their first Super 8s game against Mayo in Killarney when they bullied Mayo and also outplayed them - effectively winning the game by half time.

It was impressive to watch but the big question is whether they can sustain this kind of pressure for an entire game. Kerry know that no lead is safe particularly at half time against this Dublin team.

The game plan might not be to come firing out of the blocks and rather try and contain the Dubs without using up too much energy. The real game will be begin in the last quarter and Kerry will need to be still in it and prepared to push on.

This game may well be decided by whose defence stands up against quality forwards. There is no doubt that there are match winners in the Kerry front six and if given a constant supply of possession they will surely cause problems for the Dublin defence.

The same can be said for Dublin who have lethal forwards and will almost certainly get a decent amount of ball played into them. The Kerry defence does look vulnerable especially when faced with one-on-one battles.

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Kerry star rising: David Clifford celebrates scoring a late Kerry point alongside his team-mate Paul Geaney. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Against Donegal in the group stages they conceded 18 scores in total which tells its own story. The task facing them is huge.

Dublin have the better defence and defensive system and a lot more experience at this level. There are good man markers like John Small who will probably pick up Seán O’Shea, Michael Fitzsimons who will track David Clifford and Jonny Cooper who could be asked to pick up Paul Geaney.

There will be a huge battle around the middle of the field but again advantage here is with Dublin who have terrific options with Fenton, Macauley, McCarthy and Howard all interchangeable and all capable of match changing performances.

It is going to be epic and it will be memorable. I have said before that it will be Kerry who stop the Dubs and I think they will get close on this occasion but ultimately Dublin have too many outstanding players and have become so good at focusing and winning the next game.

The next one just happens to be to win five All-Ireland senior titles in a row and despite the enormity of what is on offer for this Dublin team I think they will have the same approach and will be able to see it through and become the greatest of them all.

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