Sunday’s All-Ireland football final is hurtling towards us with indecent haste – everything about the inter-county calendar this year has been rush-rush, hurry-hurry – with the two teams that beat us in this year’s Championship set to battle it out for the Sam Maguire.
It’s twenty-one years since Galway last won the All-Ireland football title and that’s also the most recent time they contested a final. This means they’re coming into this year’s decider with all the excitement and sense of anticipation that finalists are entitled to have and with none of the baggage that has laden us down in recent years. To say nothing about the mounting sense of foreboding we’ve always had as final day approaches.
There’s dread in some quarters of our support that Galway will now, as they often proclaimed they would when we were regularly contesting finals, win it before we ever got around to doing so. If they do, though, we really can’t have any complaints. We’ve appeared in eight finals since they were last in one and we certainly should have won more than one of those.
Galway have definitely improved as this campaign has gone on. Their defensive structure was impressive against Derry and they have strength around the middle and, in particular, up front. Questions remain, of course, about just how secure they are at the back and they can expect a searching examination of that sector when the face the Kingdom.
For all that, Galway are entitled to approach this final with a high degree of optimism. They’ve already outperformed this summer and their chances of winning Sam have been downplayed sufficiently that this almost feels like a shot to nothing for them. They won’t feel that way, of course, but it’s still a great way to be heading into an All-Ireland final.
If the Tribesmen are approaching Sunday with a sense of giddy abandonment, Kerry are surely coming into it with a greater sense of worry. Their need for success is enormous at this stage and defeat is all but unthinkable for them.
Deep down, however, they know this team is, as yet, far from the finished article. They know too that if their highly lauded players don’t catch fire on Sunday in they way they’re expected to, then the unthinkable could just happen.
The bookies aren’t buying that line, however – Kerry are strong favourites to end their eight-year wait for Sam and the form line favours them. While Munster was a cake-walk, Kerry then knocked out ourselves and Dublin to make the final, while Galway needed penalties to see off Armagh before beating a Derry side that had outperformed to win Ulster and then had a handy quarter-final pairing with Clare.
Kerry have definitely had the harder route to the final and, while they’ve wobbled a fair bit in their last two outings, they’ve nevertheless shown an impressive ability to get the job done. Seen in this light, it’s not hard to see why they’re the favourites to land Sam on Sunday.
This is in many ways a fascinating decider. It’s easy enough to make arguments for or against the both of them and, despite those strong odds favouring Kerry, it remains a tough final to call.
Nevertheless, call it we must. Who’s going to win it?
Who'll win Sam?
- Kerry (60%, 420 Votes)
- Galway (40%, 277 Votes)
Total Voters: 697