Saturday 20 January 2018

Paul Curran: If Kerry try to bully Dublin again then they will lose

Read Paul Curran's exclusive column every week in The Herald

Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin tussles off the ball with Mark Griffin, left, and Tadhg Morley of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 5 match between Kerry and Dublin at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin tussles off the ball with Mark Griffin, left, and Tadhg Morley of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 5 match between Kerry and Dublin at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Paul Curran

The National Football League has been very interesting right from the off this year, with the competition in Division 1 as good as it has ever been. Dublin have gone unbeaten again this year despite some close games and are now just one win away from making it five straight titles.

That would be a remarkable achievement considering the quality in the top tier over that period and I have no doubt that they will be as keen to win this one as they were in 2013 when they managed to beat Tyrone in the final by a single point (0-18 to 0-17).

The performances in the current campaign have arguably been less than convincing. Apart from one complete display against Roscommon, the team have probably underperformed but they have shown a never-say-die side to them that will surely be tested again this Sunday.

It would be fair to say that Monaghan, Tyrone and Kerry should have closed out their games against Dublin but for different reasons were unable to hold out. Dublin are very good at playing the game right to the very end and it is this mindset that has enabled them to win the tight games.

The unbeaten run that stretches back over two years now is a record that is unlikely to be matched by anyone in the future but the run is certain to come to an end at some point.

Sunday is going to be another massive test against a Kerry team that should have won when the teams met in Tralee a couple of weeks ago. It was a dour affair in poor conditions but still had plenty of talking points.

I upset some Kerry supporters last week when I suggested that this Kerry team were playing too negatively and were more interested in the physical side of the game especially when they played the Dubs.

There is no doubt that Kerry are hurting at the moment.

They have had to watch their great rivals, Dublin, winning plenty of national titles over the last six seasons and quite a lot of them at their expense.

It has been an extraordinary dominant run against Kerry and another defeat for them on Sunday is unthinkable. For me that puts Kerry under immense pressure and it will be interesting to see how they approach this latest battle.

If they try and bully their opponents again then they will lose. That tactic hasn’t worked and uses up a huge amount of energy so it is probably safe to say that Éamonn Fitzmaurice will send his troops out to play football this time.

And why wouldn’t he? There is a lot of talented, successful young footballers coming through the system. Young players who have been coached to play football the Kerry way and are now waiting for their opportunity to shine.

Against a traditionally defensive team like Tyrone last week, Kerry managed to score 22 times (1-21) which proves just how potent their forward line can be. If the game-plan is to attack the Dublin defence at every opportunity then Kerry have a chance.

If that obsession with Dublin is still evident in the early stages and they adopt a mainly defensive set-up then it will be another long afternoon and one that may well end with nothing to show for it.                

I am looking forward to another fascinating game.

Dublin are getting a lot of quality players back in contention for Championship places and it’s that competition within the squad that keeps everyone fresh and hungry.

I expect another Dublin victory because they look better balanced and are very comfortable with their system of play. They also have more options coming off the bench and it’s this quality that other teams are struggling to cope with.

Kerry on the other hand are still trying to find the best formula and have a lot of young players who need to find their feet quickly at this level.

They will, however, come to Croke Park with plenty of confidence and will throw the kitchen sink at Dublin to try and get that important moral lifting win.

It may well be another fiery contest but Kerry may well surprise us all and give the players the freedom to go out an express themselves. If that happens it could be a classic.

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