Friday 23 February 2018

Paul Curran: Kerry primed to foil Jim Gavin's Dublin and their three-in-a-row bid

9 April 2017; Kerry players with the cup following the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
9 April 2017; Kerry players with the cup following the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Paul Curran

Dublin players will meet up this week to begin the preparations for this year’s Football Championship and you can certain that they will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of another title.

Success would see them complete a three in a row, which would be a remarkable achievement and single them out as one of the greatest teams to ever have played the game.

The last team to achieve this was, of course, Kerry back in the eighties and even the great Dublin team of the seventies couldn’t do three despite playing in six finals on the trot from ’74 through to ’79 so the task facing this current group cannot be overstated.

There are a lot of decent teams out there waiting for any slip-up but arguably, the greatest threat will again come from Kerry as they continue to build a serious squad of players, now backboned by three successful minor teams.

The league final defeat ended an unbeaten run in league and championship lasting over two years and would have annoyed the management team and players.

But it will serve as a reminder that unless all the parts are working well there are no guarantees in football.

On the day of the final, the pass execution was of poor quality and Kerry were able to find the gaps in a back line that was missing some key players though injury.

It was a game that Kerry couldn’t afford to lose and in fairness to them, they battled hard to the end and probably deserved the win.

That will give them a huge boost of confidence as they prepare for a Munster Championship which looks almost as weak as Leinster.

It is unlikely that either team will be seriously tested in their provinces so the key to a successful year will be all about getting the best team on the field and ready for action in August.

Of course, it would be foolish to take any game for granted but both Dublin and Kerry have big squads with a lot of talent and competition for places. That  means that every player is going to be ready to perform when given the jersey.

Dublin have dominated over the last few seasons and now have a lot of players who have serious miles on the clock.

That can be a huge positive if used the right way so I would expect to see some of our younger talent given championship game-time, particularly in the provincial championship. Players like Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully and Conor McHugh should come into the mix and that would give Jim Gavin the opportunity to rest some of the older players in the squad and have them primed for the big games later in the summer.

I don’t think there will be any talk whatsoever about three in-a-rows or provincial titles. That’s just not their form and again the message will be one game at a time.

I think the players themselves will drive this on and the fact that the squad is full of talent will ensure that everyone stays focused and ready.

This group of players have continued to impress and have shown that they don’t lack bottle on so many occasions.

They will need those qualities again this year, particularly when they come up against Kerry.

It is highly probable that both teams will meet in the final, barring a disaster, and what an occasion that would be.

Obviously, Mayo, Tyrone, Donegal and possibly Galway could throw a spanner in the works but I think Dublin and Kerry are in a league of their own at the moment and will give us the final that both counties want.

I still think that Kerry are the biggest danger and have been building over the last few seasons with one objective only.

They have taken the league title away from Dublin and may well end our three-in-a-row ambitions too.

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