All-Ireland final weekend is finally upon us. In two days, Dublin and Kerry go head-to-head in a Sam Maguire decider that means so much to both counties given what’s on the line.
All week-long as part of of our Pundit Arena Roundtable we’ve been speaking to inter-county stars from each corner of the country and getting their thoughts this weekend’s final as well as the current state of Gaelic football.
In the final part of our mini-series, we speak to one of the longest-serving inter-county players in Ireland and given his previous involvement in the small ball code we thought it was only right to let him have his say on our hurling roundtable as well.
Here are the thoughts of Longwood, Meath and Leinster’s Mr Versatile, Mickey Burke.
1) Who will be Dublin’s key man on Sunday and why?
If I was asked this question a couple of years ago I would have said James McCarthy or Ciarán Kilkenny straight away, two of Jim Gavin’s on-field lieutenants. But this year I’ll say, Paul Mannion, he has carried his club form from last year into the 2019 season and is now one of Dublin’s leaders.
2) Who will be Kerry’s key man on Sunday and why?
David Moran. Kerry will need their big midfielder to play really well and provide inspiration if they are to be in with a chance. He will be needed to win primary possession around the middle, use his array of foot passing to unlock the Dubs defence and chip in with a long-distance score or two.
3) Prediction time – Who’s going to win Sam Maguire?
There’s no real logic to say anything but a Dublin win. However, in one-off games, anything can happen.
Sport is littered with great upsets.
- No one expected Offaly to beat Kerry in 1982.
- No one expected Buster Douglas to knock out the baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson, to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
- No one expected Wimbledon to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
It’s the reason we watch sport. In saying all this, though, it’s hard to look past a Dublin win.
4) Who’s your Footballer of the Year and Young Footballer of the Year?
Cathal McShane, Stephen O’Brien and my own teammate Dónal Keogan have all given outstanding individual performances this season. But I’ll go with Paul Mannion, I marked him in the 2013 Leinster Final but since then he’s added so many layers to his game. He’s kicking points now off both feet, he’s got physically stronger and is one of the most underrated tacklers in the game.
Young Player of the Year is very difficult to choose. Con O’Callaghan and David Clifford could well take home both awards but given the league campaign he had and how he’s carried that through and performed in the championship I’m going to go with Seán O’Shea.
5) What is your moment of the year?
I think it warmed the whole country seeing Tom Parsons return to play with Mayo this year. I broke my leg in both places and damaged knee ligaments (2010), so I know how many lonely hours of tedious physio Tom would have had to put in, especially on those dark nights when nobody is watching.
It takes unbelievable dedication, commitment and drive to be back playing in little over a year at that level.
6) Two years down, one to go in the Super 8s! Do you think they’ve been a success and are there any changes you would make?
Overall, probably not. There are too many dead rubber games, the concept needs a slight bit of tweaking. All games need to be competitive.
7) The talk of a tiered-championship is constantly bubbling below the surface. Do you think it is the way forward? Any changes to the current structure you’d personally like to see?
Yes! We need to develop the game in every county. The two-tiered championship needs to be promoted and marketed properly by the GAA. It cannot just be lip service. It needs to be named properly for e.g. The Páidí Ó Sé Cup. The final needs to be on before a big game in Croke Park and on TV. Also, there has to be a carrot for winning it like re-entering the All-Ireland race.
Traditionally the GAA are slow to move and don’t do change easily. I’d leave the provincials as is, they are part of our fabric. I think a two-tiered championship is so important, two games for a county in the championship is not enough for the so-called weaker counties to develop. I would love a Champions League-style format of 6 teams where every county is guaranteed 5 games every summer, but this won’t happen.
Bonus Question: As Mickey Burke is one of the most high-profile dual players in Ireland he had some thoughts to share on our hurling roundtable.
I was reading Pundit Arena’s article before the hurling final and was amazed to see that the lads didn’t want two referees officiating. I genuinely couldn’t believe it. In my opinion, it’s an absolute no brainer, obviously, there would be teething issues but the game is so fast now and the matches are so intense in both codes that the referees need help. I think that a sin bin is better than the black card.
Obviously a proper county and club fixture planner with a proper off season as well but that’s all talk for another day