All-Ireland final preview

He’s been assessing the action here on the site for much of the summer and I’m delighted to welcome back JPM into the guest slot to provide his thoughts on Sunday’s championship decider. 

Well the nights are closing in, the kids are back in school and the hurling has been decided. That of course means there is one more serious occasion to be determined in the GAA calendar for 2011, the All-Ireland football final. It brings to the climax all of the hard training, punishment and desire that has been exerted and nourished by the 33 counties that participated since the beginning of May. And at the end of it all it is fair to say that the best two teams in the country are contesting this final. It is for the ultimate goal and in the hope of achieving legend and glory that Dublin and Kerry will both line up in Croke Park on Sunday next.

However it is with different pedigree and perhaps different ambitions that these two teams take to the field. Kerry have been in this place countless times before. The experience and savvy they bring to the occasion is without equal. Eight times in the past ten years the Kingdom have been here. In itself this achievement is astounding, when you consider the effort required nowadays actually to accomplish it. And let’s face it – it’s not getting any easier. So you have to take your hats off to Kerry that they keep coming back year after year, producing the players and the mentality to reach this peak. With the summit now in sight it is difficult to rule against them. They believe they have some sort of divine right to winning the All-Ireland and it’s fair to say that Kerry have the instinct and belief that they will deliver the goods at this stage. And that’s why they are so difficult to beat.

Dublin on the other hand have to go back sixteen years for their last appearance in the decider. So getting here is an achievement in itself for the ‘Boys in Blue’. In doing so they have dealt admirably with all the national media and local hype that seems to have been the downfall of so many of their predecessors. God bless the Hurling Final, the ‘Boys in Green’ versus Slovakia and Russia, the Rugby World Cup and the 9/11 remembrances, Pat Gilroy must be thinking. The All-Ireland football final has sort of snuck up on us in the meantime and the national media has not had the time or the space to ramp up the focus on Dublin’s achievements until late this week. And this is a big benefit to the team. Also they also have had much tougher encounters along the way than their Kerry counterparts.

The old saying is that you are only as good as your last game. Kerry beat Mayo by nine points scoring 1-20 in the process. Dublin scraped by Donegal by two points scoring 0-8 in the process. Dublin also failed to score from play for sixty minutes whereas Kerry at that stage had 1-16 to their credit. So looking at the semi-finals it seems clear that Kerry are favourites and rightly so. But this might not be an accurate reflection of either of these teams. Kerry did beat us but we missed some crucial scores while at the same time Kerry grabbed all their opportunities.

The Dublin v Donegal game was by all standards a game of ‘muck’. The tactics employed by Donegal were exceptionally negative and while on the whole they worked, it was to Dublin’s credit that they still overcame them. In the process this Dublin team has shown more patience in their game and a more unselfish nature within the team. Bryan Cullen’s point to seal the deal against Donegal came via a pass from their top man. Whereas before the suspicion was that he may have taken it on himself, and blown the opportunity, this team now appear to be playing as a cohesive unit. And as a result they have shown the self-belief required to win the hard-nosed contests.

It also seems clear that the game will be won and lost in the middle third of the pitch. Whoever dominates possession here can get the required ball into their classy forwards and they will do the damage and win the contest. Against us the Gooch was unmarkable. But the simple fact is that he’s that way against every team. They only way to stop a player of his calibre is to quench the supply. Dublin too have quality in the final third. Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly will perform if they are presented with decent ball. To be fair to them it won’t be the same game they had to grind out against Donegal and more space in theory should be available to them. Alan Brogan versus Eoin Brosnan is also a key matchup for the Dubs. If they can get proper ball to him one suspects he will have the pace to unsettle the Kerry centre-half back.  On the other side Declan and Darran O’Sullivan will be expected to terrify the entire Dublin back line. Kerry also have the luxury of bringing on Paul Galvin. To have a player of his calibre on the bench says a lot for the ability within the team. Plus his introduction might unsettle the Dubs and the crowd themselves and maybe make them lose sight of the big picture.

Both teams have the ambition to win this title and on the day it will be decided by who wants it more. Many of the Kerry players are on the go a long time and possibly a few may be bowing out at the end of this season. The timing of these retirements is important to the Kerry man. Will he go out at the top or in second place? Dublin also have the aspiration to win it and they have a lot of youth and on their side. They bring a freshness and excitement to the All-Ireland. Plus to see the Hill in full swing will revive some old memories and cheer up most in the capital.

At the end of the day the All-Ireland final is the pinnacle of the football year. Hopefully it will be a great game. That is what all of the country wants to see: great players playing great football. Whether you’re supporting Dublin or Kerry, everyone wants to see a thrilling contest with the winners rightfully coming out on top and lifting Sam Maguire.

8 thoughts on “All-Ireland final preview

  1. Bringing in my youngest Dub to the match. My older Dub does not want to go in as he really fears the worst. Such wisdom at such a young age 🙂 If only I had his pessimism/realism in 1997, 2004, 2006 and 2011 against the kingdom.
    So how the hell are Kerry so good and consistent. I would guess that we have as many playing GAA in Mayo. So what the hell is it then. No other county has it or comes nears to them for consistency ? Since I can remember, they have not been producing endless stream of underage talent, but them seem to pluck one or maybe two from every year that really do the business at senior. How many of Kerry’s startring 15 have won minor or u-21 All Irelands. Not that many I would say but I could be wrong. You got to hand it to them even though they have put us (and every other county bar Tyrone) through so much pain over the years. It must be in the water down there. I don’t think the coaching is any better down there than anywhere else. They have a direct style of football that is easy on the eye and no one else can match. They must play that certain way down there from an early age.
    Anway having said that, I really hope the Dubs win on Sunday but I really can’t see it unless Dublin real talent and form lies closer to their quarter final preformance than their semi final performance. Although, I would rate Dublin ahead of us and we gave them a pretty decent rattle. So lets hope for a great game, a Dublin win and a raft of retirements down Kerry way to even up the playing field
    for the rest of us.

  2. Kerry win because they want to win more.

    In Mayo we think we want to win. We don’t. We’d like to win. But that’s not the same as wanting it, and everyone wanting it to the same degree, and everyone being willing to make major sacrifices to achieve that same goal. That’s why Kerry keep winning.

    I think JPM is being very kind to Dublin, out of respect to our host and his young lad. But me, I think Dublin are in for the same scutching that Kerry handed out to Cork and ourselves in recent Septembers. And I don’t begrudge them. They’re the best for a reason, and the example is there for anyone to follow. If enough of them want it badly enough.

  3. A good analysis JPM but I find it hard to call because finals should take on a life of their own.

    An Spailpín’d first line is right. It also doubles for Kilkenny’s hurlers. JPM rightly mentions scores we didn’t take against Kerry and whilst true lets not forget Kerry squandered two goal chances at the very start. Had they gone in , it was going to be a horrific beating.

    I believe Gooch is markable, McMenamon and Joe McMahon from Tyrone have marked him out of it.Anthony Lynch gave him hickory many times as well. The goal he got against us went down to a mistake by the keeper in not cleaning everything in his path out of the way as that ball dropped in. So maybe that takes a goal back from them…if that’s the case, then Dublin will go mighty close and maybe beat them.

  4. I don’t think Dublin will be found wanting where it comes to the will to win on Sunday. Kerry never do either, of course, and the added incentive of facing Dublin in a final again after such a long absence will drive them on even more. You’d have to fancy Kerry, given their sheer talent and their unrivalled experience at this level, something Dublin – despite all their games at Croke Park – simply don’t have. That said, I don’t think Dublin are coming into this without hope either.

    The way our match went with Kerry should be of great help to Pat Gilroy in planning how to tackle them. We did a lot right against Kerry, in particular shutting down all their danger men bar Gooch for long spells and Dublin will need to do the same. They pack the defence as well so the tactics we used on the likes of Donaghy could work on Sunday too. But lads like Kevin Nolan (if he’s on Darran O’Sullivan) and Ger Brennan (on Declan O’Sullivan) will need to play out of their skins. Kerry will obviously try to kill them with goals early (remember how they started the 2009 semi) which makes that opening 10-15 minutes so crucial for that young Dublin backline. If they survive that opening barrage, then they have a chance.

    One of the main reasons we lost was because we weren’t able to dominate midfield and never broke even on our own kickouts. Stephen Cluxton has a key part to play here for the Dubs and the way he finds his men with those ultra-quick kickouts almost makes him another midfielder. If he gets those right, then the Dubs will have a fair bit of possession and they have the lads in the forwards who are able to do damage with it. He’s not infallible, though, and Kerry have in the past (notably very late in the 2007 semi) profited from being able to second-guess where Cluxton is placing his kickouts.

    The one thing I’ve been saying to lads up here is that Dublin can take heart from the fact that they’ve twice done what this Kerry team have never done – beaten Mickey Harte’s Tyrone in the championship. They’ll also know that last year was an All-Ireland that got away: had they got over the line against Cork, I think they’d have beaten Down comfortably enough in the final.

    If they win this Sunday, it’ll have to be the hard way. Deep down, I doubt they will but if they’re still with Kerry with 15 or 20 to go, miles on the clock could (as it did against Tyrone last year) prove decisive. I hope it does.

  5. Hi Ontheroad. W.r.t to the Gooch he scored 1-7 against us. So the goal was also just one of 7 other scores that he claimed off both feet. On the goal itself well of course we should have cleared it.
    But when you look back at it the Gooch won the ball, ran away from our goal then turned his man and then (when others would have taken the easy point) had the composure and belief to stick it in the net. That is some achievement and that ability and belief is the main reason why I believe he is unmarkable.

  6. Cluxton is an important man for the Dubs. He had a poor semi final where he missed a couple of early 45s and frees. Maybe he as the jitters out of him now. But you would have to be worried if he plays that way against Donegal, what will he be like against the kingdom?

  7. JPM, taking nothing from you, you are correct and how I wish we had a Gooch but if Dublin are going to win, like Tyrone before them then someone has to be able to mark him. That ultimately will decide. Your piece is excellent and that’s why we debate it.
    Can I say even though the Gooch won that ball for his goal , on reflection, it was an awful goal to concede both in terms of how he got it and how we reacted to him in possession. He went for goal to kill us and we should have been aware of that. The more I now look back at that game the more I see stuff that alarms me.

  8. I hear what you’re saying Ontheroad. The more I look back shows the new level we have to move to – one which we are currently a bit off with this current group of players.
    Williejoe I think Kerry will have learned as much as Pat Gilroy did from the Mayo game. Jack O’Connor must know they are frail in the FB line. It wouldn’t surprise me that Kerry adopt the same approach they used against Limerick when playing against Dublins kickouts. That being to drop back a lot of their 1/2 fw line into defence and hope to catch Dublin on the counter.
    they can take their own approach on their own kickouts – the one they used against us worked very well for them.

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