GAA Football

Kerry will have eyes set on scalping Farrell early

Dublin begin life after Jim Gavin facing a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final against a Kerry side that hasn't beaten them in Croke Park since 2012. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Allianz Football League Division One: Dublin v Kerry (tonight, 7pm, Croke Park, live on RTÉ2 & eir Sport)

SO begins life after Jim. Officially the most prolific and devastating domination of Gaelic football in all of its 130-year history, the question now is whether it’s over.

Only the passing of time opens the window on how significant his impact was. If Dessie Farrell keeps on churning out All-Irelands, Gavin’s perceived influence will diminish. If Farrell fails, the legend of Jim only grows.

Kerry so nearly smashed it all just shy of five months ago. The drawn game sat up almost perfectly for them, between Jonny Cooper’s red card and the timing of Killian Spillane’s goal. There will, in that changing room, be an inescapable sense that they should have more than just could have.

It will inevitably happen and part of why it almost happened last autumn was because of the emphasis Kerry placed on their game with the Dubs last spring.

The stand in Tralee was full 90 minutes before throw-in. There was this sense that Peter Keane’s young side needed to lay a marker, and they did that with a one-point win in a thriller.

The next step is to win one in Croke Park. They haven’t beaten Dublin there in the league since the opening night eight years ago, and they haven’t beaten them in championship since the ‘startled earwigs’ game in 2009.

Dublin will always take a defeat to heart, but their relative early-season vulnerabilities are undeniable. They lost their opener to Monaghan last year, drew two of their first three in 2017 and were beaten first up by Cork in 2015. If you’re going to catch them, now’s the time.

And if there’s any team that won’t have stolen a march from the Dubs’ team holiday, it’s a Kerry outfit that were in Thailand themselves across the new year and into early January.

David Clifford being confirmed as their 2020 captain has been the headline story of the week. It’s hard to imagine that the Messiah would feel any more weight of pressure because of it. Something about him just makes you think he’ll cope, although he could do with wearing 14 so he doesn’t have to listen to the “no number 13 has lifted Sam” stuff all year.

It would be a softish marker, but an important one nonetheless, if they were to scalp the champions tonight.

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