WHAT a game to look forward to this Sunday in Croke Park between the two heavyweights Dublin and Kerry. It promises to be a cracker of a game and hopefully the weather will hold up to ensure the best team wins on the day.
There have been many ups and downs over the last few months with new intercounty competition structures and a rather congested calendar. Maybe that has had a factor in many teams’ form appearing to be inconsistent and no one team putting their hand up as clear favourites for Sam Maguire from a long way out.
There have been many factors leading into to this including injuries, the late return of certain key players, concentrated blocks of heavy training, and also the tactical challenge put forward by the opposition teams.
There has been much criticism in the spectacle Gaelic football has to offer right now and that’s up for debate. What must be admired though is the level of detail and coaching that most teams are bringing. That combination of physical, technical, tactical and psychological ability.
I think this is what makes this week’s finalists stand out. Both Dublin and Kerry have shown to be in great shape and mentally strong. What makes the ultimate difference is their football ability, both individually and collectively. The individual ability, decision-making, tactical awareness and team play to take advantage of their physical prowess is a joy to behold.
Similar to the Limerick hurlers last week, they have a very impressive work-rate, strength and resilience but ultimately it’s their ability to adjust and execute game-plans and skills within that which made the difference.
It is hard to make a call on who will win. Dublin will have spotted how vulnerable Derry made the Kerry defence appear on many occasions.
Likewise the way Dublin set up without a permanent sweeper, Kerry will feel with quick movement of ball that they will create plenty of chances. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry started like they did versus Galway in last year’s final and drop a few high balls in on top of the ‘D’ to Clifford. This wasn’t really an option in the semi-final given Derry’s physical height and strength in the full-back line.
It will be interesting to see how Kerry decide to set up on Dublin’s kick-out. Kerry got great joy late on versus Derry when they pushed up hard on the kick-out but if they push too often or too early is there a chance Dublin will pick them off for an early goal?
There has been a few times over the years when Dublin players have scorched through the Kerry defence for goals. It’s easy to remember spectacular goals scored by Jack McCaffrey and Eoin Murchan. Hence I expect Kerry to keep it tight early on and maybe press up hard after a free.
I expect both teams to create enough scoring opportunities so conversion rate will be the key. Kerry may have the overall attacking edge with the individual ability of David Clifford and Sean O’Shea’s free-taking.
I can’t see Dublin winning without scoring goals so here is where Con Callaghan is key. His scoring rate has been very impressive but just a crucial is that he creates scoring chances for other forwards. Many forwards would drastically improve their game if they thought like him.
There is such a rivalry between these two teams, that a black card or sending off could happen and ultimately that would have a potential big effect on the final result. Let’s hope it doesn’t and that football execution on the day will be the deciding factor.