“The question on everyone’s lips is ‘What’s this about Dublin and Kerry?’ Is it Hill 16 on sunny June days or Fitzgerald Stadium with green and gold in bloom? Is it the Pints of Black or Kerry Gold? Do you make a fortune by selling tickets? Is it Molly Malone or Fungie the Dolphin?”
sentimental marketing pattern or reality? It certainly inspires great sporting rivalry, but for the players involved in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final there is only one reality – win or lose.
Both teams are very motivated and Kerry manager Jack O’Connor has shown it in bright colors after the Kingdom’s quarter-final win over Mayo.
“The bottom line here is that these Kerry players were dying to get a cut on the dubs three years ago,” O’Connor said. “They lost an All-Ireland out there that they would think they could have won. We certainly won’t lack motivation, but neither will Dublin.”
Indeed, ever since the collapse of last year’s semi-final against Mayo, the Dubs have had a shadow of sorts over the analysis of their games, and they’re driven to exorcise those memories.
With Leinster’s winners on the same side of the draw as Munster’s this year, this neck-and-neck race was widely anticipated as the heavyweights’ clash. Granted, over the year Galway and Derry have put up their credentials, but you can’t escape the history between Dublin and Kerry.
It feels like it’s returned to the black and white two-channel era when Kerry threw that hammer away against Dublin in the 2009 All Ireland Quarterfinals, Kerry went a little under the radar and delivered a ruthless performance; The game was practically over shortly after it had just begun.
After five successful Leinster Championship campaigns we finished as favourites, but we were also burdened with expectations and pressure.
We had to win this game. Kerry had dominated the past decade with Tyrone, they were mentally stronger, had no baggage and they duly raged at us.
They were a team that was possibly nearing its end, but there was another thorn in them. Does that sound familiar to you?
It’s hard to believe Kerry hasn’t beaten Dublin in the Championship since the ‘terrified catchy tunes’ clash. No wins, five losses and one draw is not a good record for the kingdom in the last 13 years. Kerry just has to win on Sunday. In many ways, that baggage of expectation now rests on their shoulders. That could play into Dublin’s hands.
O’Connor likely received a list from the Kerry County Board upon his appointment as manager for this season — arguably a one-liner: Bring Sam back.
From the start, O’Connor took on the task with panache and determination. Kerry have beefed up their defense – in 14 games this year (McGrath Cup onwards) they have conceded just two goals (both came during the league, one a penalty against Monaghan), they bring more physicality to the middle third and combine with due to their particular talent are they the favorites for All-Ireland.
Earlier this year I was smitten with Kerry and tipped them off to win the All-Ireland. That view was shaken when I watched Dublin slay Kildare with great efficiency in the Leinster final. I was beginning to think there might be one final thorn in this great Dublin team.
The biggest change in Dublin from last year and the last league campaign was the shape of their forward line. The positioning and movement of the inner trio of Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock and Cormac Costello; They were excellent in their destruction of Kildare.
While Dublin and Kerry have not clashed in the Championship since 2019 – when Dublin finished their drive for five before turning six the following season – there have been big changes in the Dublin panel since then.
The following players played big or small roles then but have since retired or slipped: Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Michael Darragh Macauley, Paul Mannion, Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon, Philly McMahon and Cian O’Sullivan.
Of this group, Cluxton was the player the kingdom was most obsessed with. I think they had a voodoo doll of his with pins in it, but even that didn’t work for the oracle! It will be very interesting to see how Kerry tackles the kick-out in Dublin with Evan Comerford now between the sticks.
Former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice recently explained how his side used to spend a significant amount of their prep time trying to push the Dublin kick-out. They felt that if they could crack the Cluxton code they would be well on their way to victory.
In 2016, they had a hit before half-time when they scored 2-4 without an answer to turn a five-point deficit into a five-point lead. In 2019, however, the same press hurt Kerry when Dublin was overdone – Brian Howard’s great strike from a Cluxton kickout that started that great move for McCaffrey’s goal in the tie final, the pinnacle of Dublin’s success.
Kerry has given Tadhg Morley a freer role this season to protect his full-back line. They are given that opportunity largely because their opponents are so consumed by the threat posed by David Clifford and his colleagues that they are not operating with six forwards.
Dublin might decide to push Morley forward. When they play with six forwards Kerry will need to be extremely organized and will then be forced to drop half a forward to free Morley to play the role he has played so effectively this year.
Whilst Dublin have looked with renewed energy in this Championship (apart from the game against Cork), there are still question marks over their defence, injuries and the extent of talent and experience in big games on the bench.
Dublin will have to take risks to test Kerry’s new defense system, but it’s questionable whether the defense can stop this Kerry attack once it gets going.
Kerry is the best kick passer in the game in my opinion and will thrive on any space to move the ball quickly into Paul Geaney and David Clifford. Will Dublin be able to free Jonny Cooper to aid his teammates in their one-on-one battles? Trying to get your strategy right to pin Clifford is something of a tightrope act: one small slip and disaster can strike.
The match-ups will be crucial. John Small on Seán O’Shea is probably a given. O’Shea has played deep at times this year, but one can never rule out the possibility of him spending time closer to goal, which may be more difficult for Small.
Will rookie Lee Gannon follow Paudie Clifford out of the field into the middle third and try to hurt him if he goes the other way? With David Byrne not entirely fit, it looks like Michael Fitzsimons will get the nod to pick up David Clifford. Will Jack Barry be fit enough to attach his harness to Brian Fenton’s and slow down the Raheny’s Clubman? While it’s likely Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan will be chasing Cormac Costello and Con O’Callaghan.
Which brings us to arguably the most important topic of conversation ahead of Sunday – will Con O’Callaghan and James McCarthy play? Let’s get straight to the point. If O’Callaghan is unfit to play, it will seriously affect Dublin’s chances of success. In fact, it will likely be a fatal blow to Dessie Farrell’s men’s odds.
Many will compare him to David Clifford, but they are at different stages in their careers. Con is at the top of the ladder when it comes to clutch moments in the big game.
where do you start 2017 Tyrone Semifinals, 2017 Mayo Finals, 2019 Mayo Semifinals, 2020 Finals vs. Mayo. A couple of goals against Kerry when he last faced them in the league in 2021, or the destruction of Kildare in the recent Leinster decision.
So when both teams are at full strength and these two great teams go head-to-head with 10 minutes to go, it gets electrifying. Kerry has the stronger bank, so Dublin needs to dig up a new hero or two from their bank of rookies. Dublin will be the mentally stronger team in my opinion but if Kerry gets momentum or energy from a goal in the last quarter maybe they’ll just grow up.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/dubs-will-look-to-kerry-of-2009-as-their-template-for-success-41823569.html Dubs will look to Kerry from 2009 as a template for her success