So will Kerry be deigned an unstoppable juggernaut, the phrase so often ascribed to Dublin, after matching on Sunday their rival’s 28-point record-winning margin for the 2015 championship?
Not if Kerry can help it but hype is merited. As the pair remain on course for a date on September 20, compare the form of Kerry’s players with those Dublin’s and it’s the reigning champions who win out. Just.
The Kilcummin man has hardly put a foot wrong since regaining his place from Brian Kelly in contrast to Stephen Cluxton who hasn’t been hitting his usual lofty heights. Kealy’s saves in the two games against Cork were pivotal.
Marc Ó Sé
Did Eamonn Fitzmaurice know exactly what he would unleash in dropping Ó Sé last August? The 35-year-old plays as if still motivated by that snub. Colm O’Neill may have slipped him for a goal in the drawn Munster final but Ó Sé won that battle as he has every duel in his four outings thus far.
Aidan O’Mahony has done superbly since coming in for the Munster final replay but Enright was excellent in both Cork matches, keeping Brian Hurley relatively anonymous, and oozed composure against Kildare.
Philly McMahon hasn’t done much wrong but then our selections have all performed better than him particularly Cooper who has been consistently good going back to the spring. One of the tidiest defenders Dublin have had in quite some time.
Marginally better than Killian Young and Jonathan Lyne, Murphy would have been a far more worthier recipient of the man of the match award than James O’Donoghue in the provincial final replay. He subdued the dangerous Niall Kelly after the Kildare man’s bright start on Sunday.
Jim Gavin clearly doesn’t trust John Small just yet to step into Ger Brennan’s shoes as anchor. In O’Sullivan, he has a man who can put his mind and body to anything from corner-back to midfield. It would be hard to argue that there is any player more trustworthy in the Dublin set-up.
Do yourself a favour and look again at how pinpoint accurate his delivery was to Bernard Brogan for Dublin’s first goal on Sunday.
McCaffrey as an attacking wing-back has it all but he must too be complimented on improving his defensive game this season.
Given how good he was against Tipperary, it was a surprise when he was left out on July 5. Nullifying the opposition’s best fetching midfielder the last two games, he has since shown Fitzmaurice that he is more than worthy of his starting place.
The best midfielder in the country at the moment, Maher and Neil Gallagher the next best to him. His level of performance have dropped little since his monumental display in Limerick 12 months ago and that includes a league run when he again distinguished himself.
Another performance like Sunday and Stephen O’Brien would be a cert. Paul Flynn’s work-rate has hardly dropped from these last three seasons when he’s won All Stars. But Walsh’s ability to find himself space and time has been instrumental to Kerry’s successes and survival.
Alongside Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan, Kilkenny was Dublin’s top performer in Leinster. He has been that good that few have been talking of Alan Brogan starting games.
Right now, the prime contenders for footballer of the year are Aidan O’Shea, Conor McManus, David Moran and Connolly. He wasn’t magnificent against Fermanagh but then he has already shown in the past few months that he is at the peak of his powers. Yet to own a game like last year’s All-Ireland club final, though.
Like Connolly, he was hauled off early at the weekend. However, it wasn’t as if he was under-performing with the game all but over by the time he left the field.
Two goals in two starts in Munster, it’s fair to say Geaney has nudged ahead of O’Donoghue as Kerry’s best goal-getter.
Dublin may yet rue the absence of cruciate injury victim Eoghan O’Gara but apart from an expert freetaker Rock provides Gavin with a totemic-like target man who is deceptively quick off the mark.
After enjoying his best Leinster campaign in several years, the 31-year-old added his fifth goal of the championship in a man-of-the-match performance against Fermanagh.
His reading of the game has compensated for the yard of pace he might have lost.
You may not be aware but Dublin’s footballers have had a media manager since the start of Pat Gilroy’s time. When it comes to team affairs, the role of PRO in the capital has been made largely redundant. A volunteer position too, it nevertheless underlines the resources at the side’s disposal.
The role illustrates just how self-aware Dublin have become. “Careful” is the mantra when so much of what they say is disseminated and scrutinised. The media haven’t seen head nor tail of Paul Flynn since he claimed at the end of last year that Dublin were the best team in 2014.
And yet there have been a few more slips of late. Jim Gavin’s Newstalk interview on the subject of the Dublin-Armagh challenge game was unfortunate. He also tripped up on Sean Quigley’s name last Thursday, referring to him as Seamus, his brother. At the end of last week, there were media diary notices about two Dublin footballers appearing at commercial events. Fermanagh hadn’t yet been beaten.
Also at last week’s press conference, Gavin responded to Darragh Ó Sé’s comments that Dublin didn’t have a difficult job being asked to beat Fermanagh. Gavin said: “When I hear Kerry talking about Dublin football, I take it with a large pinch of salt”. The Dublin manager made similar comments after the Kildare game when we asked him about Ó Sé’s claim that Diarmuid Connolly has a short fuse.
One wonders just how wise he was to make comments about Kerry when the referee on Sunday, Padraig O’Sullivan, hailed from the county. Nobody is questioning O’Sullivan’s impartiality but Dublin should be controlling the controllables.
Waterford find themselves in a strange situation this week. You could argue they were on unfamiliar ground last week when Derek McGrath brought them playing crazy golf in Tramore on Friday! But this week they’re now being told both in and outside the county that they’re in bonus territory facing Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final. Yet it was generally agreed that had they lost to Dublin in an All-Ireland quarter-final it would have been an anti-climax to an otherwise fine season. Right now, they seem to be in a no man’s land between bust and bonus. That’s if they were to go by our reckonings.
Just as well, then, that they aren’t listening: “2015 will be a poor year if we fail to beat Kilkenny,” says selector Dan Shanahan.
More than any other team, Waterford have been going their own way this season. If they are to beat Kilkenny, they must maintain that journey.
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