JIM GAVIN’S RECORD-setting Dubs stand on the verge of another significant feat today.
Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
While they’ll stress that winning the All-Ireland is all that matters, there’s no doubt the opportunity to achieve the GAA’s longest unbeaten run has been playing on the minds of the Dublin players this week.
It’s important in terms of the legacy they leave behind and it’s safe to assume that, given how ambitious this Dublin side is, this is a record they want. Win today and they’ll equal the 34-game unbeaten run of the Kerry side of the early 1930s.
That Kingdom team which emerged from the ashes of the Civil War went down as one of the greatest of all-time. They won six All-Irelands between 1923 and 1933, including claiming Sam Maguire four times in-a-row, in addition to 10 Munster SFC crowns and four straight National League titles.
Since 2011, Dublin have annexed four All-Irelands, four National League titles and six Leinster crowns. The last team to beat them was Kerry on 1 March 2015 in Killarney, meaning it’s been over two years since Gavin’s men have tasted defeat.
One notable feature of the back-to-back champions is their superiority over Kerry and Mayo, their closest challengers for Sam. In the eight games they’ve contested against both sides in the last two years, Dublin have won six and drawn two.
Kerry have lost four straight games to their rivals, and tonight provides a huge opportunity to end that dismal run. In that game two years ago, Kerry brought a huge level of physicality and it’s something they’ll need to replicate if they’re to be the team that ends Dublin’s unbeaten streak.
Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
Eamonn Fitzmaurice needs to get the match-ups right and it’ll be interesting to see if he decides to pair Jack Barry, a phenomenal athlete, up with Brian Fenton who is the finest midfielder in the country at present.
James O’Donoghue’s absence through injury will hurt the Kingdom, who’ll look to keep Jack Savage and Paul Geaney close to goal.
If the supply line is good, the aforementioned duo will have an entertaining battle with Philly McMahon and Jonny Cooper inside.
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Kerry could do with upping their scoring rate from the half-forward line, but they do have an extremely dangerous bench with Darran O’Sullivan, Stephen O’Brien and Barry John Keane all held in reserve.
Ronan Shanahan, Tadhg Morley, Jack Barry, Adrian Spillane, Kevin McCarthy and Savage are all relatively inexperienced at this level and Fitzmaurice is clearly looking to build a squad for later in the summer.
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Source: James Crombie/INPHO
If those six youngsters can put up big performances it’ll serve them well later in the summer.
They haven’t been named to start, but there’s every chance Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and Cian O’Sullivan could feature at some point as Gavin looks to integrate some of his veterans back into the team.
Another battle to look out for in Tralee is the kick-outs. Kerry frustrated Stephen Cluxton for a key spell before half-time last August and it’s an area they’ll likely target once again.
As The42 analyst Rob Carroll put it after that game:
“Dublin look to return the ball to play within six seconds if possible. That’s one of Cluxton’s key stats. With such a fast restart, teams — with the best will in the world — find it hard to stay switched on straight after an attack to regroup and take position for the subsequent kickout.
“The kickout immediately following the goal took an age to restart as Darran O’Sullivan needed treatment. This gave Kerry time to compose themselves from the goal and form a solid defensive shape for the next kickout.”
So we can expect Kerry to push up on Cluxton’s restarts only when they have a break in play before the ball goes dead, or if a stoppage prevents Cluxton from taking a quick one.
Kerry will look at tonight as an opportunity to put right some wrongs from recent seasons. If they can disrupt Dublin’s pattern of play and keep things tight at the back, then they’ve every chance of putting an end to Dublin’s ‘invincibles’ tag.
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