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Colm O'Rourke: Able reinforcements should give Dublin the edge in clash of two sides travelling in opposite directions

After what people thought was a revolution in football, things have changed again and we are nearing the end of the championship having gone back to a more traditional type of game.

With Mayo, Dublin and Kerry left in the race for glory, the blanket defence has given way to a more attacking style of play.

Seeing the wheel turning once more is good news for supporters and if some restriction were placed on handpassing then Gaelic football could be a hugely attractive field game because there are some great individual players around at the moment with pace, power and skill.

Many of those will be in Croke Park today in one of the biggest sporting events anywhere in the world, even if 2FM don't seem to think so.

Last Wednesday morning, after hearing there were three changes on the Kerry team, I waited with great interest for the complete team to be aired but after Champions League news, the latest on Bluebell Utd and other sports, the announcement came that Kerry had made changes but nothing on who was involved apart from Kieran Donaghy being dropped.

Given that the GAA had earlier in the week announced that the game is an 82,000 sell-out, the announcement of the Kerry team should be the lead story on a sports bulletin and the team should be given in full. The GAA is bigger news than many think and over 82,000 people will agree.

Anyway, with my normal paranoia out of the way, this will be an incredible sporting occasion. Perhaps a dimming of the Kerry light too that has shone so brightly for over a decade, because if they lose this one it will mark the end of many careers. If the ó Sé brothers and Paul Galvin leave, among others, Kerry will search for years to find replacements. You can give the jerseys to others but what representing Kerry means will be lost to a greater or lesser extent.

There have been plenty of times in the past when Kerry found themselves in similar situations to today. The usual response was to give the Dubs a hiding. That is unlikely to happen this afternoon but a one-point win is all that is needed. If that is to happen then Kerry will have to reproduce their first-half display from the Munster final.

Watching that match from behind the goal which Kerry attacked in the first half was an education in how football is meant to be played. The movement off the ball was superb, the skill level was of the highest order, the foot-passing was delightful and the angles that man and ball moved at were what every coach

would dream to have his team doing. Then half-time came and after that the wheels fell off. By the end, Kerry looked ragged.

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Kieran Donaghy came on at midfield and calmed things down but when Cork started to use the most scientific of approaches – kicking the ball in high – Kerry got the jitters. Of course Kerry could turn that tactic on its head by putting Donaghy at full-forward and the Dublin full-back line would then suffer the high-ball wobbles.

So the Kerry approach will be to ensure each of Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs will have to be fought for, that they stop the Dublin goal threat and isolate the Dublin full-back line and get quick ball inside to Declan O'Sullivan and James O'Donoghue with strict orders to take on their men. Kerry need goals to win and they will get chances.

Dublin will hardly change much in the way they play. It will be helter-skelter, 100-miles-an-hour stuff. Sometimes it may appear as if it is so fast that nobody knows what they are doing. Yet it is probably the exact opposite. It is a similar style to Mayo's. Man and ball move at great speed with James McCarthy, Jack McCaffrey and Cian O'Sullivan the links between defence and attack. McCaffrey is the Dublin Usain Bolt; Kerry are likely to put Darran O'Sullivan on him to make him think twice about going forward and to test him as a defender. So too will McCarthy be examined. Donnchadh Walsh ghosts into positions without any minders around; his finishing is often poor but some day . . .

Then there is Mr Cooper. Ger Brennan is not nearly as mobile as other defenders and will hope to shepherd the Gooch out to the wings but he can cause damage anywhere. Brennan can sail close to the wind in terms of yellow cards and one late tackle and a card would make him redundant.

Hopefully there will be no issues on the refereeing front, there have been too many Sundays like that recently. Last week most of the big decisions went for Mayo. Okay, they were the better team but the sins of the past caught up with Tyrone. That is not the way it should be.

Then there is Bernard Brogan. A recovery to some sort of his old form would make Dublin almost unstoppable. His career has been built on finishing and he lacks the instant releases that can open defences for others. Yet every day he is close to getting scores and this is the day to find his touch.

If he does, he most likely will have to beat Marc ó Sé. Nobody has ever beaten Marc ó Sé for 70 minutes. Or probably Tomás either. No better men have ever played for Kerry. Just as well they are around too as the rest of the Kerry defence could be a little ropey, even if I saw Fionn Fitzgerald putting his body on the line to win a very important ball near the end of the Munster final and I made a mental note. A man must be brave to be great.

There must be a concern in Dublin that some day their young forwards Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul Mannion will run completely empty. It is unlikely to happen today but with Paul Flynn around they have a work horse to carry more of the load, while Diarmuid Connolly flits from brilliant to awful and all within five minutes. If it all comes together then Kerry are for the high jump. Kerry have been here before and have written

the book on pride coming before a fall. They will expect to win midfield if it turns out to be a direct contest but the Dubs will send for reinforcements here while David Moran and Bryan Sheehan are great subs too. But the Dubs have Rock, Bastick, Fitzsimons, McMahon, Cullen, Nolan and, most importantly, McManamon. They are the sort of troops to send in when the opposition are getting tired and everyone will get tired today with a flat-out pace.

When Kerry were caught cold and hijacked by Dublin in the final two years ago with the match at their mercy, they must have longed for the day to put things right and they will be highly motivated to do so. However, time marches on and now these teams are probably going in opposite directions. Dublin better than they were then and Kerry not as good. With the training doors locked to the faithful, Kerry need to produce a brilliant performance and they have willing minds but the bodies don't get some of them there as quickly as they used to.

Tennyson wrote, "the old order changeth, yielding place to new and God reveals himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world". The custom in this case is that Kerry nearly always beat Dublin but I think that that is changing and Mayo and Dublin are the future order. Dublin to win and without any reliance on God either.


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