Talk of Dublin’s drive of five, or Kerry somehow bringing a halt to it will grow inescapably deafening in the next few days.
We’ve already seen the five in row t-shirts and heard a few freshly recorded theme songs to mark the historic occasion.
It’s not difficult to see where all that funding has gone when you get sent a video of a machine in a Dublin pub inscribing the head of a pint of Guinness with “Up the Dubs — five in a row” on it. In Kerry, the lady behind the bar has taken to doing a similar job with her little finger, it mightn’t exactly meet the food safety authority guidelines, but some corners must be cut to get the message out there with the ‘Spirit of 82’.
Despite Dublin having the far greater weight of expectation on their shoulders, the experience they’ve garnered over the years should insulate them from any vampires getting too much energy out of them in the next few days.
Their performance in the second half of their demolition of Mayo was frighteningly good. There was no box left unticked. Leadership, physicality, and efficiency are all embodied in the excellent Brian Fenton, Con O’Callaghan, and James McCarthy, among others.
They saw their title threatened in the first half and came out with a vengeance and blew Mayo out of the water within minutes of the restart.
In their semi-final win over Tyrone, Kerry showed patience, poise, and no little skill to overcome the dogged challenge of Mickey Harte’s side.
All in all, we’re left with two teams full of confidence and ready for a huge war on Sunday afternoon.
And like any great war, it will be an unending series of smaller battles that will decide which side are celebrating at the final whistle.
As always with Dublin, the kickout will be a crucial battleground. Firstly, they will look to suffocate their opponent inside their own half as they try to do to most teams by pushing 12 players into the Kerry half.
Once he has the ball on the tee, Shane Ryan will be looking out at a pack of blue jerseys with their arms waving trying to make themselves as big, loud, and active as possible to distract and dissuade the rookie keeper from finding a pocket of space with any great accuracy.
Dublin want contests from every Kerry kickout.
On the other side of the field, Kerry must do the same as they did at times against Niall Morgan and Tyrone.
Every chance they get from a dead ball or break in play, you’d imagine we’ll see a flood of green and gold jerseys push into the Dublin half to force them to put a few kicks for grabs.
Teams are so organised defensively from general play, winning the opposition kickout remains one of the best attacking platforms in the game and one Kerry must really take advantage of if this is going to be in the mix at 70 minutes.
Much will be determined by the key match-ups around the field. Will Gavin White get the unenviable task of tagging Jack McCaffrey? The flying half-back endured a tough evening against Mayo’s Paddy Durcan who restricted him to only five possessions in general play against Mayo.
He’ll want to bounce back on Sunday.
Kerry could go with Tadgh Morley on Con O’Callaghan, and Jason Foley on Paul Mannion. But who knows? Tom O’Sullivan is one of the most improved man-markers in the game and it will be interesting to see if management like the idea of him on Ciarán Kilkenny further out the field like he did with Peter Harte and try to put him on the back foot.
Brian Howard and Niall Scully will take plenty of minding too, but there’s no question O’Callaghan and Mannion are the sharp end of the Dublin spear, capable of piercing any defence with their goal-first mentality.
For Kerry, they cannot afford to give the same kind of latitude to these boys as Cathal McShane enjoyed for Tyrone.
If you go completely man to man on Con O’Callaghan with no help, there’ll be more green flags than blue ones in Croke Park.
It’ll require the best collective defensive performance we’ve seen from Peter Keane’s men all year, but their graph has been rising steadily in that regard.
The counter-attacking and running power of Tyrone didn’t cause much fret for the Kerry rearguard which is a great sign of improvement that can be tracked from all the way back to the trouble posed by Clare and Cork when they ran at Kerry during the Munster campaign.
Moran and Fenton are the two best midfielders in the game right now, both are class personified on the ball; Moran is probably the better kick passer with both feet, while Fenton glides across the ground at breakneck speed without looking like he’s even trying to run. Both are highlight reel fielders and hard grafters for their team.
While it would be harsh on Adrian Spillane who has come in and done well, it will be interesting to see if Jack Barry comes out of his injury shadows to be handed the job of trying to negate the influence of the best footballer in the land right now. He has done well on Fenton in the past, but the Na Gaeil man is coming off a summer of little football and while it would be a high-risk gamble, it’s probably one that makes sense.
Finally, an area where it looks like Kerry have closed the gap on the Dubs is the impact they can bring off the bench in the final quarter.
Kevin McManamon has broken Kingdom hearts too many times, but he may just be gone over the edge, so too the likes of Bernard Brogan and Paddy Andrews.
Cormac Costello will give them some offensive punch and will be the first attacking Dublin substitution, but Diarmuid Connolly remains the ultimate wild card capable of producing an act of pure genius to win the game or a moment of impetuousness that could cost them dearly in a tight contest going to the wire.
Kerry will be hoping the likes of Jack Sherwood and Tommy Walsh (if they don’t start) can have the same game-changing impact on proceedings as they did against Tyrone. If nothing else, it’ll force Dublin to drop James McCarthy back the field on Walsh like they did in the second half of the league game in Tralee. I’m not sure Jim has the same trust in Philly to hand him that kind of assignment any longer.
Could James O’Donoghue return from his injury nightmare and be the Seamus Darby of 2019?
The reality of the situation is that Dublin are favourites to win their fifth title in a row for good reason. They flow as smooth as oil, full of skilful, highly intelligent players who fulfil their role superbly within a team ethic.
Logic would suggest they should have too much for this Kerry side, but if any county are capable of stopping this trundling juggernaut, it’s a young fearless team full of athletes with a huge scoring capacity and confidence running through them.
The longer this game is in the mix, and Kerry can keep it nervously close, the heavier the pressure should start to weigh on the history-chasing Dubs.
Dublin are standing on the edge of immortality and are capable of blowing this open and winning with something to spare, but any Kerry team are most dangerous when written off as no-hopers.
And with the attacking threat in this side, they’re certainly not without their own chance of just sneaking a tight one.
It’s the way an All-Ireland final should be; up for grabs between two teams with a realistic chance of making history one way or the other.
Quirke's Final Preview: Kerry's matchups. The Fenton factor. Walsh wildcard. Gough controversy