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Comment & Analysis | Sport

Dublin have the vision, energy and class to overrun Kingdom

jackmccaffery-n
Jack McCaffery (left) is a skilful and athletic young player for Dublin.

THE LAST time Dublin were this heavily favoured to beat Kerry, the hype was founded on false logic.

Kerry stumbled to that 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, but the Dubs had hardly looked invincible in conceding 18 points from play to Kildare.

Those predicting the launch of a blue wave that August missed a simple fact: the Kingdom had the vastly superior footballers.

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That game was over in seconds, not because the ball was nestled in the Railway End net but because of the beautiful fluidity that took it there; the men had already been separated from the startled earwigs and the gap would widen to 1-10 to 0-1 by the half-hour and end up at 17 points.

Plenty of people this week will point out that many of the best players that day will return this Sunday: O Sés and O’Sullivans and Paul Galvin and, above all, Colm Cooper.

Also Kieran Donaghy did not participate in that hammering.

They will add that more than two thirds of the Kerry team that were so unlucky to lose the 2011 decider against Dublin are likely to see action.They will argue that the logic that applied in 2009 remains relevant.

Anything can happen in football, but if you’re asking us, those people are wrong. They fail to recognise that we are halfway through an informal changing of the guard in Gaelic football.

Tyrone and Kerry, the ruling powers of this young century, are in the process of ceding supremacy in these last days of summer to the best football teams of 2013.

Yes, it is easy to see Kerry severely rattling Jim Gavin’s side, just as Tyrone did to Mayo on Sunday.

Tomas O Sé and Cooper are two of the best footballers ever to lace a boot; the latter is enjoying an Indian summer in the number 11 jersey, free to showcase the astonishing way he makes this game look so easy.

Dublin’s corner-backs are dodgy and Kerry can mine plenty of possession in the air around midfield.

Kerry do not produce dumb footballers, or dumb football coaches, and it would be a shock if they did not arrive with a plan and a ferocious desire that will, as one of their greatest of all put it, test out Dublin’s pulse.

Tyrone did just that to Mayo on Sunday. Indeed, if Maurice Deegan had refrained from giving Mayo some of the softest frees you will ever see in such a big match, Mickey Harte’s men might have been 0-7 to 0-0 up.

But here’s the catch: even if it had have been seven-zip, Mayo were ultimately so superior that they probably still would have won.

Their pace, power and stamina — and their ability to carry out the skills at bewildering speed — were such that Tyrone simply could not live with them.

And by the end, Stephen O’Neill and Joe McMahon were off the pitch, Sean Cavanagh never seemed to recover from his collision with Donal Vaughan, and even Conor Gormley, that great warrior, looked weary late on as he chased shadows.

Tyrone’s experienced players, the men they would have hoped would be thriving by the end, could not live with the physicality and pace of the game.

It is not hard to see the same thing happening to Kerry. Dublin and Mayo, when they gain superiority in the third quarter of a game, can end it in minutes with a furious string of goal chances and points, as if, well, as if they are Tyrone 2008 or Kerry 2009.

And even if some of Kerry’s older or less mobile players can live with the first wave, Dublin can prompt another onslaught with subs of great quality; many of them are the men who engineered that thrilling comeback in 2011.

It is easy to see how Kerry can more than compete with the Dubs in the first 40 minutes or so; much harder to pick the Kerry men that will live over the full 70-odd with the pace and power of Jack McCaffrey or James McCarthy or Paul Flynn or Diarmuid Connolly, or, above all, Michael Darragh Macauley.

The loss of Killian Young makes that situation even worse, and if only Paul Mannion of Dublin’s inside forwards is in good enough form to cause Eamonn Fitzmaurice sleepless nights, it might not matter, because the real danger comes in waves from further out the field.

Most crucially of all, in the men already mentioned and in Ciaran Kilkenny and Cian O’Sullivan, Dublin have, for the first time in more than 40 years, footballers whose vision and class rivals that of their opponents in green and gold.

It is a sobering thought that, like Tyrone last Sunday, Kerry might give a performance that loses them no honour, without seriously threatening in the last quarter to win the game. Dublin by six or more.

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Eamonn O Molloy
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Eamonn O'Molloy is Gaelic Football columnist withThe Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @EamonnOMolloy

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