GAA Football

Dublin should have quality in depth to hold off Kerry in final

Dublin celebrate last year's All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final victory over Kerry
Picture by Colm O'Reilly

Allianz NFL Division One final: Dublin v Kerry
(Sunday, Croke Park, 3.30pm, live on TG4)

THE past and the future will swirl around Croke Park on Sunday on the centenary of the Easter Rising. Banna Strand has been mentioned in both news and sport contexts, the latter relating to Kerry’s efforts to prepare themselves properly for the season ahead.

The Kingdom have at least three good reasons to want to dethrone Dublin as league champions. The least of those is that Kerry were the last county to complete a four in-a-row of league titles, which Jim Gavin’s side are one win away from emulating.

More importantly, Kerry’s management and players may well be aware that winning this trophy has been a good omen for them in recent times; their last five such successes have led on to lifting Sam Maguire later that same year (1984, 1997, 2004, '06 and '09). Before that, they suffered dramatic and famous defeats in the subsequent Championships, against Offaly in 1982 and Dublin in 1977.

Dublin have completed two league/Championship doubles in recent seasons (last year and in 2013) and appear in even better league form this time around, having won all eight outings. Indeed, they haven’t lost in league or Championship since defeat by Kerry in round three of last year’s Division One. That unbeaten streak was extended to 21 games (including just two draws, against Tyrone and Mayo, both last year) by their semi-final stroll past Donegal.

Yet, the Dubs don’t appear as invincible as they seemed before another semi-final against Donegal, in the 2014 All-Ireland, when Jim McGuinness’ men counter-attacked their way to a stunning success. Dublin, of course, rethought their defensive set-up after that setback, with Cian O’Sullivan impressive as sweeper en route to retaining the league and reclaiming Sam last year. They finished with the joint-lowest tally (85, 4-73) conceded across the top three divisions this season.

Kerry also took notice of Dublin’s 2014 defeat by Donegal and their safety-first approach won them the All-Ireland that September. Like Dublin last year, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side have also recovered from a poor start to the league - defeats in Croke Park and at home to Roscommon - to reel off a string of victories, their sixth coming in the semi-final when they wreaked revenge on the Rossies.

Which brings me to the third, and most important, reason for Kerry needing to win on Sunday. After losing tight thrillers in the 2011 All-Ireland final and 2013 semi-final, last year’s decider defeat to the Dubs wasn’t quite a capitulation, but the Kingdom showed a surprising lack of fight, at least until Kieran Donaghy came on.

'Star’ has been in flying form at midfield recently, while Colm Cooper has been showing signs he can achieve redemption after being given the run-around by Philly McMahon in that September showdown.

Other old timers, including Aidan O’Mahony, Marc O Se and Donnchadh Walsh - with skipper Bryan Sheehan already 30 and Darran O’Sullivan soon to reach that mark - appear determined to show they can still be the best.

Yet, Dublin still deserve that description and, roared on by a large part of the capacity crowd, they should have the quality in depth to hold off high-scoring Kerry.



Dublin 2-14 Kerry 0-14; Mayo 0-7 Dublin 0-9; Dublin 1-14 Monaghan 0-16; Dublin 2-14 Cork 2-10; Down 1-7 Dublin 1-15; Dublin 1-10 Donegal 0-7; Roscommon 1-12 Dublin 1-13; Dublin 1-20 Donegal 0-13 (semi-final)

Dublin 2-14 Kerry 0-14; Kerry 1-10 Roscommon 0-14; Down 0-6 Kerry 0-22; Kerry 1-13 Donegal 1-8; Mayo 0-14 Kerry 2-13; Monaghan 1-9 Kerry 1-17; Kerry 0-20 Cork 1-12; Kerry 3-15 Roscommon 0-14 (semi-final)

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