HE would hardly admit so publicly, but does Éamonn Fitzmaurice really want to be meeting Dublin yet again before a potential rematch later in the summer, in Sunday’s Allianz NFL Division 1 final?
It’s one thing earning another competitive encounter, but it’s quite another for that competitive encounter to be against the one team that has tormented you so often in the recent past. And that is exactly what Dublin have done to Kerry.
Dublin are favourites to overcome the Kingdom again in this fixture. If they do, and we seriously expect them to, what good will it do Kerry to have lost another match against Jim Gavin’s side?
Fitzmaurice is a proper manager. Top-class, in fact. We all know that. He has, in the face of the Dublin juggernaut, ensured Kerry have retained their placing as the second-best team in the country. And given Gavin’s troops are performing to a standard never seen before, that is an achievement in itself.
Fitzmaurice and Kerry would disagree with that notion, as second-best is nowhere in the Kingdom.
Nevertheless, Kerry still have Dublin by the coat-tails. The problem is, the more times the sides collide and Dublin win, Kerry’s diminishing grip diminishes further.
If Kerry are to have a genuine chance of finally breaking the Metropolitans’ resolve in the championship, assuming they clash at some point, then winning on Sunday is an absolute must from their perspective.
Paul Curran may have criticised Kerry’s approach when the teams met in Tralee recently, but it takes two to tango and Gavin’s men were hardly blameless for the shenanigans that transpired on that occasion.
Fitzmaurice and co might have to be as abrasive once more to get Dublin off the bridle again. Kerry managed to do so temporarily in Austin Stack Park and generated a lead of 0-9 to 0-5 in the process.
As an aside, did Kerry and Dublin even get off a tad lightly for the behaviour of their players on that night? A couple of avid football folk voiced the idea that had such skirmishes been as frequent in a contest involving, say, Tyrone and Donegal, that much more would have been made of the incidents.
Whether that is true or not is for another day, but there is at least some credence to the theory.
However, nobody should be surprised if similar scenes occur on Sunday. Provided, of course, nobody steps over the line, it’ll be fascinating to witness these two stags at loggerheads once again.
The game is of equal importance to Dublin, of course, silverware-availability aside. Gavin was none too impressed by the performance of his players in Clones last Sunday despite the result.
Jack McCarron’s capacity to troll Dublin’s defence will have concerned Gavin. We can expect to see Cian O’Sullivan start on Sunday in order to protect their full-back line again.
Dublin’s primary defensive screen replaced the black-carded Diarmuid Connolly in Clones and his return should ensure the defending champions retain their league title.
O’Sullivan’s unrivalled reading of the game and exceptional positional sense has been the most notable absentee of Dublin’s arsenal recently.
In fact, the trouble Kerry and Monaghan caused the Metropolitans’ rearguard will copper-fasten Gavin’s view that O’Sullivan’s role is arguably the most pivotal of all within his group.
O’Sullivan’s worth his weight in gold.
The Allianz NFL Division 2 final, the curtain-raiser to Dublin-Kerry, should be enthralling at headquarters in its own right on Sunday afternoon.
The teams in the second-tier obviously get slightly less media coverage than those operating in Division 1. However, what hasn’t gone unnoticed is the return of Michael Meehan to the Galway panel. The Caltra man is training with Kevin Walsh’s squad for nearly six weeks now and his presence has represented a considerable boost to those still cutting their teeth at senior level.
Shane Walsh spoke glowingly of Meehan’s involvement while discussing the sharpshooter at the press event plugging Sunday’s match against Kildare.
“I was delighted,” said Walsh of the first time he saw Meehan step back into the group dynamic. “He’s just such a presence in the dressing room. I remember when he walked into the dressing room, the place nearly froze just in awe of him.
“He’s such a nice man Mikey, he’s so passionate about football and he’s so passionate about Galway and his club. He’s the right man you want there. Those are the kind of players you want to see representing your county.
“I’d be in awe of Mikey. 100%. I went to all the Caltra games when they won the All-Ireland.
“He’s such a classy player. He ticks all the boxes, he’s aggressive, physically strong, able to take a score, his decision-making is very good. He’s the type of player that every young player can look up to.”
Meehan, even at 90% fitness, would offer Kevin Walsh a viable attacking option. And as the weeks fly by and Meehan’s sharpness improves, Galway will have an extremely deadly weapon on their hands.
The Tribesmen, irrespective of the outcome at Croke Park this weekend, are primed for a productive summer and if Meehan, a genius of a footballer, is gracing our pitches and TV screens it’ll be a welcome development for all, not just those in the west.
Galway, Kildare too, and Monaghan seem like the three sides best-placed to fill the roles of the proverbial dark horses in the championship.
And of those three counties, Kevin Walsh’s charges will appreciate that they could easily have been an All-Ireland semi-finalist last season were it not for an unexpectedly insipid showing against Tipperary in the quarter-final.
Though Dublin appear unbeatable at present, Galway are definitely one of those due to hunt menacingly in the chasing pack.