As the renewal of Gaelic football’s most storied rivalry looms closer and closer, this All-Ireland final feels somewhat different than years gone by.
With Dublin and Kerry we are used to humdinger battles that could turn on a knife-edge but heading into this meeting between the pair there seems to be a school of thought that Kerry have no hope of a victory.
And that is wrong because if there’s one thing you can always cling to, it’s hope!
No county knows that more than the Kingdom who were seemingly unbeatable during the latter part of the 1970s and early 1980s until Séamus Darby struck the most famous of goals to deny the ‘drive-for-five’.
However, the harsh reality heading into this game is that hope is all the Kingdom seem to have. When matched up against Dublin pound-for-pound there is nothing to suggest that they have the relevant manpower to topple this juggernaut.
Speaking to Aidan O’Mahony last week (stay tuned for this weekend’s feature piece), the five-time All-Ireland winner noted that there would be no sweeper deployed in Croke Park this Sunday because both teams possess six forwards that each need to be man-marked.
If the Kenmare man is right and both decide to lay down their arms and go hammer and tongs for 70 minutes then it makes for an intriguing battle, of course, but who does this really favour?
When looking at the statistics, unfortunately, there is only one winner and that’s the five-in-a-row seeking champions.
If the game is to turn into a shoot-out then look no further than both sides’ championship clash with Cork.
Peter Keane’s side travelled to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in late June for their Munster Final meeting. Kerry were red-hot favourites given Cork’s recent relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz League, however, the Rebel side put up a great showing before falling agonisingly short in a three-point defeat.
The game finished 1-19 to 3-10 with Cork netting three goals from open-play while Tom O’Sullivan ghosted up from corner-back to net for Kerry.
A few weeks later Dublin welcomed a resurgent Cork to Croke Park in the opening round of the Super 8s. On the night, Cork caused Dublin problems but it seemed like only a matter of time before the Jackeens turned the screw. They did in the final ten minutes banging in three goals to leave the final score at 5-18 to 1-17, a 13-point victory.
The clear argument against this is that Kerry had to play Cork away from home while Dublin’s game was at home. Well, this Sunday’s final is hardly being played on neutral ground, is it?
Aidan O’Mahony wasn’t wrong, though. Kerry have the forwards to cause Dublin problems but are they better than the forwards that Dublin possess? There’s no real evidence to suggest that they are.
Over six championship outings this year, Kerry have landed a very handsome 7-112. They’ve scored a goal in each of their games (which is something Dublin have not) and racked up at least 15 points a game across the provincial and All-Ireland series.
However, it still doesn’t match up to Dublin who have amassed an astonishing 17-138 in seven championship games. They may not have scored a goal against Kildare but they had their opportunities and they did put three past Mayo, one of this era’s great defensive outfits. Kerry could manage just one.
Dublin may have an extra game under their belt but not even they could rack up a scoreline of 10-36 in one appearance.
So, if it’s not the forward division where Kerry holds the upper hand, how do the teams match up defensively?
The truth is that the gap is a lot closer than you might expect. Kerry have conceded a total of 5-88 across the championship season compared to Dublin’s 2-79, it’s only a 24 point difference compared to 66 points at the other end of the field but nowhere near enough to suggest that Kerry have the defensive capabilities to control and nullify this Dublin side in Croke Park.
Kerry have a fantastic side and it’s clear that the best is yet to come. David Clifford will one day be considered the best while Seán O’Shea looks set to become a once-in-a-lifetime playmaker. Stephen O’Brien is in the form of his life and Paul Geaney looks back to his best.
They are a squad brimming with talent (and All-Ireland Minor medals) and look set to become the main rival to this all-conquering Dublin side.
One day they will end this Blue Wave but there’s no reasonable logic to suggest that it will be on Sunday.
However, we’ve seen logic go out the window in the past, so you may as well tune in because there’s always hope!