BY KEN DOHERTY
It’s the biggest sporting weekend of the year and following the amazing spectacle of the Limerick four-in-a-row of last weekend, old rivals Dublin and Kerry will seek to create their own pieces of history at Croke Park this Sunday.
See Ken Doherty column inside where he predicts Dublin will hit the high notes in a tense and tough battle while also turn to Sport section for a most comprehensive preview of the big match.
Dubs v Kerry – I predict a battle for the ages with ‘The Boys In Blue’ to shade it by a couple of points
Seldom if ever does a Dublin-Kerry final fail to deliver and I am expecting a real cracker from the moment Meath referee David Gough throws the ball in until he sounds the final whistle some time around 5.0pm on Sunday afternoon.
We had a great coronation of Limerick at Croke Park last Sunday when they became only the third team in history to win the Liam MacCarthy cup in four successive seasons. For someone living mostly in England, it brought home to me how lucky we are to have such treasures in our national games.
Hurling is something to savour but so too are the football battles and even the neutrals will agree that the Kingdom and the Dubs have that ‘something special’ tag going with their All Ireland final encounters.
Due to work commitments I won’t be there but I can tell you there is nowhere else I’d rather be than on the Hill this Sunday for the banter and the passion that is unique to that historic area in Croker when a battle with Kerry is underway beneath us on the playing pitch.
I stood there as a young lad in the eighties when we only had one big day – against Galway in ‘82 while suffering defeats in successive years to Kerry in ‘84 and ‘85. Those clashes and talk of what happened in the seventies when Heffo and Micko went head to head, has given me a real love for such big occasions in the Gaelic calendar.
In the past 10-12 years, Dublin have managed to beat Kerry in most of their important games and I am convinced that they would have done so in the semi-final last year if they had the likes of Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey available.
Even then they only went under to that great free from distance by Sean O’Shea with virtually the last kick of the game. This time around, those three seasoned Dubs are back in Dessie Farrell’s squad and together with the emergence of Colm Pasqual, they have a lot more to offer this year.
That said, I expect this to be a battle of Titans with no quarter asked for or given. It will be a mental, physical and tactical battle where every ounce of energy will be expended by two great sides.
I laud both squads because only for them I feel Gaelic football would be a rather negative sport to look at – a poor version of rugby league with play going across the field or back the field way too often for the spectator to see anything to be enthused about.
Dublin and Kerry are no mugs and will not leave their citadels unguarded, but once they do the bread and butter part of the game, they will then expand the play to use their athleticism and skill so that the man and woman sitting or standing around Croker can find something to get really excited about.
As a Dub, I admit that I have a blue haze over my eyes but that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire Kerry for all they have given the sport down the years. I love Kerry people and going down to the Kingdom for their wit and their love of ball hopping. They also feel they have almost an entitlement to win Sam Maguire – and that belief often stands to them against lesser teams.
Dublin though don’t lack in confidence and why should they, seeing as a big part of this squad has gone where no team even went before by winning six-in-a-row.
Kerry’s hearts were broken when they didn’t get the five timer back in 1982 thanks to Seamus Darby’s late strike for Offaly. And they tried but were unable to stop Dublin clinch a victory that saw them emulate and surpass the great Micko’s side of the seventies and early eighties.
This time some Dubs players like goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, Mick Fitzsimons and skipper James McCarthy will receive their ninth celtic cross should they win and that should be a driving force for the Dubs to walk up the Hogan Stand to collect the Cup.
Kerry, under Jack O’Connor for the third time, will be seeking to put back-to-back titles together and the bookies rate them slight favourites at 10/11 as against Dublin’s 6/5 in the run up to Sunday.
They have a matchwinner in the peerless David Clifford and if he gets enough support on the scoreboard, then they could very well sneak the victory.
I think the game will be decided by the benches. Dublin are a good bit stronger in that department while I also feel that they have a group of nine forwards between starters and subs that has more firepower than what Kerry possess.
Ultimately it is that facet that should see them squeeze home in what I hope will be a match for the ages.
Let’s hope for a great occasion to remember and I believe there will be a Rhapsody in Blue on Liffeyside celebrating victory on Sunday evening.
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