Leinster Senior Football Championship Final preview
Dublin v Kildare, Sunday, 4pm – Croke Park, Live on RTÉ
By Aaron Dunne
Over the course of a glittering 11-year career with the Dublin senior footballers – in which he amassed seven Leinster titles and a Sam Maguire – Paul Casey never once lost to Kildare.
A stalwart with the Dubs from 2001-2012, the Lucan Sarsfields club man also won a Sigerson Cup with DCU, but the Lilywhites never once got the better of him. And he can’t see this latest Kildare outfit troubling Dessie Farrell’s Dubs in Sunday’s Leinster final – though he does stress that they are a very dangerous opponent now under former Kerry boss Jack O’Connor.
“Luckily enough, over the course of my career, I never lost a Championship match to Kildare,” Casey told the Dublin Gazette this week. “The only teams we lost to in Leinster were Laois, Westmeath and Meath in 2010. Thankfully I had a 100 per cent record against Kildare, but we didn’t play them too often. Especially during the Pillar years (Paul Caffrey Dublin manager 2004-2008).
“We played them in 2002 in the Leinster final – my first Leinster final actually – and that was a tight match. We’d beaten Wexford in the first game and then Meath in the semi-final, just like this year, but yeah I have happy memories of playing Kildare. They still had a few of that team that had reached the All-Ireland final in 1998 then.
“My sister-in-law’s nephew Darragh Kirwan (Naas) is actually in the Kildare squad so I’ve been keeping an eye on them alright. They’ve been impressive, and it’s been interesting to see how Jack O’Connor has been going down there.
“This is his second year in charge, but his first full summer really with Covid and everything last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of shape he has them in now. I think Jack will certainly have brought untiy to the county. He’s a manager with proven pedigree. They’ve had great success with underage teams lately, and he’ll certainly have brought the best players out to play with the county, so it will be interesting to see what way they acquit themselves.”
Dublin have been less than their usual stellar self in reaching yet another provincial decider – shaky wins over Wexford and Meath far from inspiring confidence. And with the loss of Paul Mannion, Jack McCaffrey, Cian O’Sullivan, Paddy Andrews and of course Stephen Cluxton, there have been suggestions that Dublin might be at their most vulnerable in some time.
So much so, that Kerry have been installed as favourites for Sam Maguire. Casey isn’t buying that though.
“You could say that Dublin are a team in transition, but you look around the team and you still have the likes of Mick Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, and they’re all household names with just so much experience.
“There’s always going to be new players breaking into the squad, and they have to get the expereince at some stage, so they’re all gaining that valuable Championship experience now. Those two tough tight games will have done those lads the world of good.
“They might be a team in transition, but I don’t see that halting their success or their progress. It’ll be another learning experience on Sunday but hopefully they’ll come out on the right side of the result. You have to play the teams in front of you first, and Dublin have to be fearful of Kildare. There’s no back door, there’s no second chance, and they won’t want to be caught on the hop.”
A win would set up and semi-final date with recently-crowned Connacht champions Mayo – and should that go their way, an All-Ireland final shwodown with either Kerry, Monaghan or Tyrone.
“ Tyrone Monaghan you could flip a coin. Tyrone are flying under their new management and Monaghan have been impressive all year, particularly in the Championship, and they had to dig deep against Armagh on the back of Brendan Ogie Ó Dufaigh (the Monaghan U-20 captain who tragically lost his life in a road accident the night before).
“Mayo put in a great second-half performance against Galway and they have that Croke Park experience so they’ll be very dangerous as well. They’ll expect to play Dublin, but they’ll have the benefit of an extra week as well.
“So it will be a very interesting last four left and hopefully we’ll get good games now for the remainder of the Championship. You’d have to fear Kerry because they really seem to have a pep in their step. But I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion Kerry will even reach the final.”
Caption:Paul Casey of Dublin during the Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Football Championship Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile