Dublin goal-den boys to win the day against the Kingdom
AFTER a four-year hiatus, the biggest rivalry in Gaelic football will be renewed on the biggest stage in the game when Dublin take on Kerry in tomorrow’s All-Ireland final.
It is the most enduring head-to-head in the game between the two most successful counties in history, but clashes on the third Sunday in September have been few and far between in recent times.
The Dubs won by a point when they last met in the showpiece, 1-12 to 1-11 in 2011, but you have to go back to 1985 for the previous final showdown, when Kerry triumphed by four points, 2-12 to 2-8.
It’s all a far cry from the mid-to-late 1970s, when they met four times in the space of five years, although the added depth in quality across the country and the introduction of the Qualifiers has more to do with that than any lowering of the standards in the capital or the Kingdom.
And what can be said with great certainty is that the two teams lining up in tomorrow’s game are by some distance the best in the country at present.
Kerry go in as defending champions, but they will feel they still have a point to prove as many observers felt they were simply the best of a bad bunch last season, while they haven’t been terribly convincing at times this term, especially in the drawn Munster final with Cork and in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Tyrone.
Dublin, meanwhile, will probably feel a return of two Sam Maguires doesn’t do sufficient justice to this current crop of players, and they will be keen to rubberstamp their status as one of the great teams in history.
Jim Gavin’s Dubs go in as favourites at even-money (Boylesports) to win the game, and 4/5 with Toals to get their hands on the Sam Maguire.
Kerry can be backed at 5/4 with Paddy Power to win in the 70 minutes, and at evens to get their hands on the coveted prize by whatever means.
The layers clearly think there is little to choose between the sides, and it is very hard to argue with that assessment, yet while the match should be tight in terms of the winning margin, it could still be relatively high-scoring.
The amount of attacking talent on the pitch, and on either bench, is frightening, and both sides have been racking up the goals in their respective runs to the final.
Dublin have found the net a staggering 19 times in their six games to date, with Bernard Brogan raising the green flag six times.
Kerry, for their part, have scored 12 goals, seven of them against hapless Kildare, and manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has made the brave call to restore Paul Geaney to the starting line-up at the expense of skipper Kieran Donaghy, which only adds to the goal threat.
Another reason to suspect there will be goals in this one is that neither team is water-tight in defence.
Dublin have coughed up four goals in their last three outings, while Kerry conceded three to Cork in the drawn Munster final, and if Tyrone had taken their chances in the last four, it would be the Red Hands and not the Kingdom lining up against Dublin tomorrow.
Kerry were the last team to retain the All-Ireland title in 2007, and since then there has been no more than four points between the sides in any final, with three of those games decided by a single point.
It will be close again, but I’m taking Dublin to edge it by virtue of the Brogan factor and also the quality they have in reserve on the bench, particularly goal machine Kevin McManamon.
Jim Gavin’s men are a good shout at evens, while the 15/4 offered by Bet365 about them winning by a 1-3 point margin also appeals.
Bernard Brogan is highly likely to find the net at some stage, and Paddy Power offer a very nice 9/4 about him doing so at any stage, while they offer the same price about him registering a score and Dublin winning.
Finally, it might be worth a small bet on McManamon getting the last goal and Dublin claiming victory, which is a 12/1 shot with Paddy Power.
Dublin to win in 70 minutes, evens (Boylesports); to win by 1-3 points, 15/4 (Bet365)
Bernard Brogan to score a goal at anytime, 9/4 (Paddy Power)
Kevin McManamon last goal and Dublin to win, 12/1 (Paddy Power)