Wednesday 18 September 2019

Alan Brogan: 'Kerry's decade of woes will be forgotten if they stop Dublin's drive-for-five'

A poor decade of returns for Kingdom faithful will be tolerated if 'drive' is halted

Kerry are out to halt Dublin's bid for five-in-a-row
Kerry are out to halt Dublin's bid for five-in-a-row

Alan Brogan

WE'RE in the middle of an eerie sort of calm before next week's storm.

It's a weird week in the lives of football people in Dublin and Kerry.

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We're only 11 days shy of a match that feels like it has more riding on it than any of the other meetings between the teams this decade.

Which is saying something.

Now that the All-Ireland hurling final is out of the way and there's nothing else to fill that space, the attention around the football final will intensity.

It's funny how the relationship between Dublin and Kerry has flipped.

We started the decade as a minuscule object in Kerry's very long shadow.

Around 2011, you got the distinct impression that if Kerry people enjoyed when their county played Dublin for the craic and the stories and the reminiscing and the promise of 'traditional' football, their team probably enjoyed the experience of playing against us just as much.

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I had a connection with Kerry through my mother but I remember giving a speech to our squad before we played in '07 about how we needed to develop an edge about them.

They inflicted as much misery on us as anyone around that time but for some reason, they never got our blood up in the same way Tyrone did.

We had no complex about Kerry.

But by the time we beat them in 2011, it wasn't about Kerry for us at all. It was just about us playing to our potential and getting over the line. They represented nothing more or less to us than the team we had to beat to win Sam Maguire.

It was only in hindsight that the win felt more special because it was Kerry that we had beaten in the final.

I wonder if that's the same for these Kerry players now.

Whether they like it or not, they've inherited the responsibility of stopping Dublin winning a fifth All-Ireland in successive years.

And for obvious historical reasons, nowhere would a Dublin five-in-a-row be more resented than in Kerry.

So even though David Clifford and Seán O'Shea have never played Dublin in championship football before now and despite the fact that they haven't had the opportunity to prevent Dublin winning any of their previous four All-Irelands in succession, they're either going to attain the unwanted tag of leading members of the Kerry team that allowed Dublin to do five-in-a-row or they'll be remembered forever as heroes for stopping it.

By their own standards, it's been a terrible decade for Kerry.

They've only won one All-Ireland and they've lost four championship matches with Dublin, including two finals.

But if they were to finish it off by stopping the team who are being spoken about as perhaps the greatest of all time from making that claim indisputable, all will be forgiven.

How deeply that situation has penetrated their psyche depends largely on the individual.

It's hard to imagine for instance that the likes of David Moran and Tommy Walsh, players with parental links to the glory years of the seventies, aren't acutely aware of it.

It would be counter-productive to obsess over it though.

Back in 2011, we had a sports psychologist. Now players use performance coaches. Largely, they're the same thing.

Regardless of their title, they'll preach a consistent message.

If you're thinking about the outcome and its ramifications, you're neglecting the process.

And it's that process, and the collective ability of the team to execute their game plan, that will win this All-Ireland. Not Dublin's desire to make history. And certainly not Kerry's aching need to stop it from happening.

Players get so zoned into the minutiae of putting a performance together that they won't spend a second collectively discussing the outcome - but it won't escape their private thoughts.

Dublin are in the inverse position.

Nobody from within the camp will say it but the idea of beating Kerry to win a fifth All-Ireland in a row and surpass the achievements of their team from the seventies seems almost surreal.

It is, should Dublin win on Sunday week, the dream scenario.

There's no doubt that 2011 was special.

And that each of the All-Irelands since were satisfying as they confirmed and reinforced Dublin's status as the pre-eminent team of the era.

But this is something completely different, an achievement none of us would have dared predict might even be a possibility in 2011.

So if everything seems a little too quiet at the moment, expect the storm of attention on the match to surpass anything we've seen in either county for a long time.

Which is why it's beneficial for players to spend as much time with each other over the next 11 days as possible.

It can be draining meeting people and having the same conversations.

"Well?? How are ye' fixed?"

"Grand."

*silence *

People mean well but they can't help themselves either.

I can only imagine what it's like for any Kerry player in the run-up to an All-Ireland who has to deal with members of the public on a daily basis or even their own work colleagues.

For both teams, there's an A versus B game coming up this weekend that can still have an impact on one or two selection decisions that haven't been made.

And even if both teams line out the way we expect on September 1st, there are a handful of those fellas who are sweating now over injuries.

A looming All-Ireland final can turn a player into a hypochondriac.

You start to feel niggles and twinges that you never even noticed before. They might not even exist!

We've 11 days to go until the All-Ireland final that could be remembered before everything else that happened in football this decade.

It can't come quickly enough.

Herald

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