Dublin vs Kerry preview

By Liam Carroll

GAA

There’s something about Kerry in Croker. And there’s something more about Kerry vs Dublin in Croker. That’s why after last Sunday’s draw for the All-Ireland Quarter Finals, most of the country was licking their lips ahead of a crunch tie between old foes Kerry and Dublin.

Ahead of their clash, there was much talk of the epic encounters in the clashes of yesteryear, and the captivating matches of the last few years.

Culchie v City Slicker

September 1975 marked the birth of the most intense sporting rivalry of Irish sport.

After brushing aside Sligo at the semi-final stage, Mick O’Dwyer’s young Kerry team were pitted against Dublin at Croke Park for the All-Ireland final. Micko’s fresh and expansive open approach to play was in much contrast to the rigorous and physical style of the Dubliners.

The Dubs, employing their brute force system, couldn’t handle the men from the Kingdom as they were defeated by five points. The game was marked by Kerry’s unique style of open and fluid play, a flavour yet to be tasted by Croke Park goers until that day, and the horrendous tackles on current Limerick manager and then Kerry captain Mickey “Ned” O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan was bulldozed onto the terrain, and as a result missed out on lifting up the Sam Maguire Cup, after being knocked unconscious and being hospitalized. The tackle put the intensity of the rivalry into perfect perspective; bullish and brutish Dublin football versus skilful and fluid Kerry displays, factory v farm, experience v youth and strength v style. It was the culchie versus the city slicker. And more often than not, the culchies got the upper hand.

Dublin got some revenge the following year, defeating Kerry in the All-Ireland final by 3-8 to 10 points, and in ’77 pipped Kerry to an All-Ireland final, defeating them at the semi-final stage.

32 years and counting

Dublin’s third All-Ireland in four years seemed to confirm their superiority and cement their place the best team of the era, but surprisingly 1977 was the last success that the Metropolitans have enjoyed over the over the Kerry men for over three decades.

1977 was put right from a Kerry viewpoint as they defeated the Blue Army in ’78 and ’79 on their way to their historic four-in-a-row. Another back-to-back All-Ireland final victory over Dublin was then completed by Kerry in 1985.

Paidi O’Se’s acceptance of Sam Maguire for the 29th time had the Dubs chomping at the bit, however it was 16 years later before the pair would clash again in the Championship.

2001’s quarter-final encounter between the rivals at the home of hurling, Semple Stadium, was a game that Kerry foolishly failed to win. Leading by eight points with 12 minutes remaining usually equates to certain victory, but the Dub’s had other ideas.

Tommy Carr’s Dublin outfit scored 2-3 without reply to see them within ten seconds of a first victory over their fierce rivals for a quarter of a century. Though there was to be a further twist in the tale.

Kerry won a sideline ball after Dublin’s number 1 David Byrne miscued his kick out. All eyes were on the elegant Maurice Fitzgerald, who calmly swerved the ball over the bar to equalise with a peach of a point.

Kerry went on to win the replay the following week with Johnny Crowley finding himself on peak form as he went on to score 2-2.

Kerry again saw off the Dubs at the quarter final stage in 2004, before edging them out again in 2007 in a nail biting encounter that bestowed onto Kerry path to another All-Ireland final.

Any given Monday

If you were on the moon since May, I presume your money was on Kerry taking this one. Kerry were the team with all the luck in this battle-like encounters and have arguably the strongest panel in the country.

However, three months is a long time in gaelic football. Convincingly dumped out of the Munster Championship by Cork and and a trio of woeful displays against Division 3 and 4 sides Longford, Sligo and Antrim meant that Dublin, who powered through the Leinster Championship, merited their favourites tag.

The critics believed that this Kerry team would be buried at Croke Park today, with Dublin the obliging undertakers. It was felt that this team had too many miles on the clock, and aspirations of lifting Sam Maguire in September were non-existent.

Not hungry enough? Would you be hungry for more if you were part of a starting XV that boasted 43 All-Ireland medals collectively? This was supposed to be the day we said farewell to the greatest team of the noughties.

That didn’t transpire. Thousands of supporters tucked into bucket-sized portions of humble pie after only 38 seconds as Colm “The Gooch” Cooper found the net with a cool left-footed finish after some fantastic forward play from full-back Mike McCarthy.

That’s one way to shut Hill 16 up. Another method involves a war tank.

Dublin were drowning, 1-2 down after only five minutes. The 81,190 in Croke Park were treated to arguably the most convincing and beautiful displays of football to be ever seen. Kerry could do no wrong.

Darren O’Sullivan at corner forward was having the game of his life, and The Gooch was back his masterful best. Darragh O’Se and Seamus Scanlon were dominant in midfield, while the backs let nothing through them. It was the Kingdom’s day of redemption after a summer of angst, unrest and under-performance.

The Dublin players were like deer caught in the headlights. Was there any chance that this new surface drafted in after last week’s U2 concert would swallow them up?

Fifteen minutes in and manager Pat Gilroy was already making changes. Ciaran Whelan was thrown into midfield to stop the rot and at least contest to win the ball that appeared to be glued to Kerry hands. Pat Burke and Cian O’Sullivan were also introduced less than a quarter of an hour later, but to no avail.

There was no stopping the Kerry machine. Pass, run, pass, shoot, score. It was simple football being played perfectly. Kerry led 1-14 to 0-3 at half time. The game was over. Kerry’s champagne football had done the damage in the first half.

Conal Keaney bagged a second half goal for the Dubs, but Kerry were still in full flow. They ticked off scores through Tomas O’Se, Tadhg Kennelly, Tom O’Sullivan, Seamus Scanlon, Paul Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh, Colm Cooper who bagged 1-7 and man-of-the-match Darren O’Sullivan. Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton prevented his team from going down by more than 17 points, with smart saves from efforts by substitute Paul O’Connor who scored two points and Declan O’Sullivan.

“Show’s what ye know!”

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy afterwards compared his team to “startled earwigs”. The earwigs were truly destroyed everywhere. This Kerry team was completely written off and put aside, but now is to be found as 6/4 favourites to life Sam Maguire aloft for the 36th time come September.

Dublin had no answer for Kerry who had all the skill, strength and pace. It’s bye-bye once again for the Dubs, who huffed and puffed again this year, but failed to blow the house down. It’s the same old story again for Dublin, Leinster domination followed by an August exit. Dublin will come back stronger next year, that’s for sure. They knew they were contenders for the crown this year and will be obviously disappointed. There is sufficient strength in this team to get over this trouncing and they will come back all the stronger next year.

Kerry however are through to the semi-final where they will meet either Meath of Mayo. Kerry are aiming for their staggering sixth All-Ireland final appearance in a row, and will undoubtedly fancy their chances.

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