Thursday 14 December 2017

Dublin may be champions but Kerry team to beat - Tompkins

Former Cork captain and manager believes that the hurt from losing last year will drive Kerry a long way

Bernard Brogan
Bernard Brogan
Larry Tompkins (SPORTSFILE)
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Three minutes from the end of normal time in last year's All-Ireland final, Kieran Donaghy played Killian Young in for a glorious opportunity to score a goal, which would have levelled up the contest.

Young slipped on the wet surface, the ball fell into Dublin hands and 20 seconds later Alan Brogan, who had come in as a sub a minute earlier, kicked a point at the other end.

The missed chance and the successful counter-attack may well have decided the outcome.

If Young, who had drifted into a surprisingly large tract of unmanned ground in the Dublin square, scored a goal it might well have provided the impetus for Kerry to go on and win.

That would have given the 2016 landscape a completely different look. As it stands, Dublin are odds-on favourites to win the Allianz League for a fourth successive year and have a comfortable lead over Kerry and all others in the All-Ireland odds.

The general view is that the big prizes are Dublin's to lose in a field of relatively few leading contenders.

Larry Tompkins reflected on that while returning home from Tralee last Sunday after watching Kerry despatch Cork through the Division 1 relegation chute.

He's not one to be overly-impressed by the last game he has seen so his prediction that Kerry will be the team to beat this year is based on a whole lot more than their five-point win last Sunday.

"They could have beaten Cork more easily. Kerry looked to be only in second gear and still won.

"I'm not reading much into that game in itself but the way they've come together after a bad start to the league has been impressive. They have won five games on the trot and are looking very comfortable with themselves.

"They're like a group who are on a mission this year. And as we've seen so often, there's no better team than Kerry to learn from what's gone before. They are masters at it.

"They were badly stung by losing last year's final so we can expect a big reaction. They will be the team to beat in the championships as far as I'm concerned," said Tompkins.

So what of Dublin? Surely a squad that has won three league and two All-Ireland titles in three seasons deserves to overwhelming favourites to maintain the great run?

"Dublin's record speaks for itself but I'm talking of what's coming, not what's past. I just think that Kerry will be an unbelievably driven side this year.

"Dublin will be without Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey and Alan Brogan is gone too. Brogan might not have had a starting role over the last season or two but he was a great man to bring on, a real leader who knew how to get things done. O'Carroll has been at the heart of the full-back line for a long time and McCaffrey's energy played a big role in Dublin's recent successes.

"They have a lot of players to pick from but you don't lose the likes of O'Carroll and McCaffrey from any defence and not notice it. You might get away with it in the league but the championship is different. Dublin will feel the loss then," said Tompkins.

He has always been a firm believer that desire plays a huge part in deciding the destination of titles, an area where Kerry are well-stocked at present.

Losing last year's final was bad enough but doing it after scoring a mere nine points left them feeling they had let the Kingdom brand down badly. It was Kerry's lowest total in an All-Ireland final since 1965 (a 60-minute game) when they also scored 0-9 in the defeat by Galway.

Several Kerry players underperformed last September, making it unnecessary for Eamonn Fitzmaurice to even bring up the subject.

"Every player knows how he did in the final. Not many of them could say they played well so they know what they have to do about it. Even then, they were only one score away at the finish so there's not much in it between themselves and Dublin," said the former Cork All-Ireland-winning captain, who later managed the team for seven years.

With Dublin and Kerry clear favourites to reach the league final, there's a high probability that they will be back in Croke Park tomorrow fortnight to re-heat the great rivalry.

"If that happens, it will be interesting but no more than that and won't tell you a whole lot about what's ahead. The real test will come in August.

"It's Leinster against Munster in the semi-final this year and you'd have to think Dublin and Kerry will be there as provincial champions. It would be one hell of a battle.

"A lot will happen before then but I think you'd see a different Kerry than last year. They've lost a few championship games to Dublin over the last few years so you can imagine how determined they would be to turn things around. That could count for an awful lot," said Tompkins.

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