Thursday 13 December 2018

Comment: It's no longer 'only the league' as Sky Blue Army march on Tralee

Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley and David Moran of Kerry battle it out in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final – the pair will renew rivalry in Tralee on Saturday night. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley and David Moran of Kerry battle it out in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final – the pair will renew rivalry in Tralee on Saturday night. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Dubs never bring their own sandwiches. And they don't own tea flasks or hip flasks either.

The Dubs are spenders. They love the day out. And next weekend, the redistribution of wealth from the cash lands of the east will be spread all over the Vale of sweet Tralee.

Kerry play Dublin next Saturday night in a competition we used to call "only the league". But now Kerry need to show we can beat Dublin. Dublin will try to prove they can win on the road.

Jim Gavin's Sky Blue Army are the best team in Ireland. It hurts. There's no point in pretending. Dublin have to travel to play us, for a change, and every solider among them is a Bear Grylls, marching into the unknown.

It's their turn now for the "are we there yets?" and "I'm gettin' sick dad" and "can we stop for pee?" from men who really want to stop for another drink, and you dry-driving, and listening to Lyric if you get licked, because there's no sport on it.

Sentence I know there are several 'ands' in the previous sentence but this is a literary device just to show the Dubs there's no shortening long journeys.

The Dubs will actually save money on the road trip south. The pint is far cheaper here.

I'm in favour of the new round-robin system. The top eight teams will play each other next year in a tournament within a tournament. The GPA, who do a great job in general, say there will be too much football but surely the players will enjoy playing far more than slogging away in training every weekend.

The GAA have been well served by president Aogán ó Fearghail and director-general Páraic Duffy. There is a basic injustice in allowing Dublin to play all their games at home. Privately, players from Dublin's rivals will tell you just how unfair it is but they will not speak out for fear of being branded as bad losers. That's not Dublin's fault and the money made is vital for the GAA. The round robin is a compromise.

This Dublin team should win but I expect Kerry to give a good show on Saturday night. Dublin never give up and play right to the final whistle. Kerry usually wilt near the end. The only reason Kerry have run Dublin so close over the last few years is we play better against the Dubs than anyone else.

We felt we were badly wronged by the ref and his team near the end of last year's semi-final but I'm pretty sure that Dublin would have won the replay anyway.

Wayne Barnes will not be officiating in Tralee. Wayne sent Jonathan Sexton off on a yellow in Cardiff on Saturday night and Wales scored a point a minute in his absence. I have it on good authority, from a player who was at the bottom of the ruck, that Jonathan was pinned to the ground and could not roll away. It would have been easier to get out from under a pyramid of sumos.

The Welsh played the ref and he stuck rigidly to the script he wrote for himself. But enough of referees, who are only human. It is time now to give the mighty Dublin team the praise they so richly deserve.

Dublin have saved the game of Gaelic football from teams who have put in a tender for Trump's wall. And the ticket sales are the proof. Tralee is sold out inside and outside the pitch. I've never seen such ticket lust for a league game. And here's a plaintive cry from a man gone demented. I have no spares for Kerry and Dublin or Ireland and England.

The Kerry-Dublin match is scheduled to start immediately after the Ireland and England game in the Aviva. As the bigamists say when there are two First Holy Communions scheduled for the same day "oh for the gift of bi-location".

The supporters in Austin Stack Park will crowd around iPhones, just as our ancestors did in radio days.

There was a news delay long ago when most of us were but a concept. My mam told me of how men with plenty of time on their hands, in the days of plenty of time, would stay in my granddad's country shop all of Monday and Tuesday waiting for word from Croke Park.

The shop was on the main road into Kerry from Dublin and every couple of days, a car would pass by. How did they stick the waiting at all? Our prediction is that in the final few frantic minutes Ireland will do England out of a world record and a Grand Slam.

Silence Kerry will host a minute's silence in Austin Stack Park for the late Padhraic Moran who was lost in a freak hailstorm on his way home to his beloved wife Anne.

The Morans are Kerry GAA royalty. Padhraic's mother Mai never misses a game. His late dad Mick suited the Golden Years teams and brother Micko continued the tradition. Ógie and David won All-Ireland medals. Padhraic, who was a kind, ever-smiling and gentle man, played with Beale. His club gave him a guard of honour and the tears were as impossible to stop as the tide below us on Padhraic's beloved Ballybunion strand.

We in Kerry have the greatest respect for this great Dublin team. These Dublin players have unified a huge multicultural city. It's lovely to see kids from every ethnic background sporting the Dublin colours. The very act of wearing that jersey confers citizenship. Dublin blue is the colour of unity and diversity in these the rare oul' times of the here and now.

Dublin, you are worthy All Ireland champions. And you are so welcome to the Kingdom.

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