Kerry will need to turn the usual game plan on its head to overcome Dublin

There are plenty of questions to be answered for Eamon Fitzmaurice's Kerry, but they have to go down swinging

BY Robbie Dunne 14:46 Thursday 25 August 2016, 14:46 25 Aug 2016

It took just eight minutes in the 2013 semi-final for Dublin to rip Kerry's hopes of an All-Ireland final to shreds. Two goals and two points, and all of a sudden a one point deficit is turned into a seven point win.

A seven point victory is a beatdown. A hiding. A hammering. But it doesn't tell the whole story.

Dublin are willing to spar with their opponents for long periods before highlighting a weakness, upping the ante and knocking you flat on your face. Eight minutes might not seem like a long time, but against Gavin's side it is, and they can often do it in a lot less time than that. Try eight seconds, even.

As for the sparring? That takes place in the first half. In two of their most important games this year, they have lead by some very slight margins at the break. They led by two against Kerry in the league final and Westmeath by just one in the Leinster final. They led by five against Donegal, which was more indicative of an extremely cagey Donegal than anything exceptional Dublin were doing.

What we might be in line for is an unmerciful battle on the sideline but an even more agressive one than people might think on Sunday at headquarters. There are a couple of reasons for that.

  1. According to dontfoul's statistics blog, Dublin scored 1-11 off their kick-out against Donegal and Donegal can not allow the same thing to happen if they are to be in with a shout.
  2. The 2013 semi-final proved that provided the opposition is of the same, or similar, class Dublin are more than willing to engage in a shoot-out
  3. Eamonn Fitzmaurice's future as the manager of Kerry is up in the air and he has to go down swinging against a Dublin side that have eroded Kerry's dominance over the last five years.

Reverse Psychology

There is a wide perception that Dublin annihilate teams with sheer force, but there is more nuance to their game than that. They are one of the most sophisticated teams that the GAA has ever seen when it comes to reaction, and their ability to change their approach at the drop of a hat is what has them in the position of dominance they have found themselves in over the course of the last few years.

Fitzmaurice and his backroom staff will have to be as observant and quick to act as Gavin and co. are on Sunday.

The truth is that Kerry might need to have as many as three different gameplans - one for the first half, one for the opening 20 of the second half and another one again for the last 15 minutes of the game.

Kerry lead in that 2013 semi-final with eight minutes remaining. Dublin were rattled, but if you find yourself in a game with 15 minutes remaining, that is when you normally try to sit back and defend. This is when Dublin like to step on the gas and this is when Kerry will need to let them shoot themselves in the foot.

They will need to reverse the style and the approach almost every manager has taken in the last number of years against the reigning All-Ireland champions, going at them from the first whistle and letting the game come to them in the second half.


Whatever terminology you want to attach to the phenomenon, you can expect to see plenty of it on Sunday. 

Mark Twain once said (more or less) that the person with a reputation as an early riser can lie in bed all day. Kerry have a reputation as the classiest footballers in Ireland, and they are, but they know exactly what it takes to win and will play on the edge in Croke Park on Sunday.

It takes a scamp to know one, Tomas!

If this comes down to tactics, as many are expecting, both sides will need to plan for the impact of that intensity; how will Dublin, or Kerry react when they are a man down? Aidan O'Mahony was the man sent off in the league final, and it blew the game wide open. Kerry, Fitzmaurice, and their crew are aware the difference that can make - Dublin scored 2-06 once O'Mahony was shown red and only record two points themselves.

With all due respect to Clare, the only real chance Kerry have had to figure out the identity of their team is in training. There, they would more than likely have spent the last few weeks knocking lumps out of each other, quite literally fighting for places, and will be ready to rumble once the ball throws in at 3.30 on Sunday.

It will take a full 70 minutes to separate these two sides, but it might just take eight seconds to blow the game open with with all the talent and turbulence set to take place on the field.

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