There are simply too many recent defeats to draw from, too much hurt inflicted by Dublin to fuel them.
There’s the 2011 All-Ireland final: “They stole that one off us. We let it slip through our hands. We were the better team. Five minutes out, we were five points up. That was a game that will always stick with you.”
There’s the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final: “That was probably one of the best games of football ever played. Came down to McManamon going for a point more so than a goal. Just slipped in.”
There’s last year’s All- Ireland final: “It was very hard to take we didn’t perform as to the way we’re capable of performing.”
And then there’s the league final defeat from April: “We didn’t perform to the level we’re capable of. Definitely.”
See, there’s no logical explanation, according to Sheehan, as to how hunger can be up for discussion this Sunday. It has to be Kerry all day long.
This Kerry team don’t enjoy being the group of players who have conceded ground to Dublin in the counties’ long-standing rivalry. They’re fed up of hearing that statistic regurgitated regarding Kerry’s dominance over Dublin in the championship between 1978 and 2009 and how the Leinster men have now marked the Kingdom’s card in their last three meetings.
“I don’t see how they can be hungrier than what we are,” reasons the 30-year old.
“They are the All-Ireland champions. They beat us in 2013, 2015, in the league – if you haven’t got more in the gut to win a breaking ball or track a run than what Dublin have, then something is wrong with you. I think, for us, that’s the key: that we should be more hungry than Dublin.
“I’m sure Dublin are going to be hungry. They don’t like losing to Kerry. They don’t want to be dethroned. They want to go for the two-in-a-row that hasn’t been done since we did it in ‘06, ‘07. I imagine they’re going to be hungry but I don’t see how they should be hungrier than us. We don’t fear Dublin. We just feel the last couple of times we’ve played them we haven’t played to our capabilities.”
Sheehan, who failed to hold his place at midfield for the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Clare, is optimistic that said hunger will at least ensure a performance. As noted above, there have been one too many no-shows against Sunday’s opposition.
What concerns him is that fellas are emptying themselves each evening in Fitzgerald Stadium and yet this is not being replicated on championship Sundays.
“That’s the hard thing to take. Trying to figure out why. Coming into the All-Ireland quarter-final against Clare, training was through the roof. The intensity was massive. Lads were bursting a gut to get into the team. For some reason, on the day, it didn’t work out. That’s a worry as to why we can’t bring our form from training in.
“Whether that’s an individual thing, that fellas switch off. Or maybe that we’d beaten Clare in the semi-final of the Munster championship and fellas felt we’d win handy enough, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But I don’t think you can say you’re going to win handy enough in an All- Ireland final.”
What Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side must do, he reckons, is shift Dublin onto the back foot for a sustained period. Their efforts to this regard in the league final were put paid to by Aidan O’Mahony’s red card on 50 minutes. Yes, Jim Gavin’s charges are remarkably athletic, but it is far easier move up the pitch with the ball in hand than it is chase the opposition back down the field without it.
“They’re not hiding the fact they have these coaches in there, athletic coaches, telling them they have to run 100 metres in a certain time and if you don’t make it, you won’t be on the panel. Dublin are athletic because teams are standing off Dublin, letting them do what they want.
“f you are attacking all day, you’re running forwards all day for 70 minutes, you don’t have any problems. If you’re asked to go backwards, if a team can get a sustained period of dominance, put them on the back foot, put the likes of Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and a few other fellas like that on the back foot, maybe ask questions going the other way, then we’ll see how fit they are and how much energy they have.
“They’ve had it all their own way because – you have to give them credit – they’re down to a system where they have possession, they keep possession and work their kick-outs.
Possession, so, and economy of possession is critical?
“That’s where we were let down in the All-Ireland final. We weren’t economical with the ball. We wasted chances, goal chances. Scoreable chances from play – didn’t take them. That has to be a bit part of our game, that if we do have possession of the ball, we don’t cough it up easy.
“Going by training, if we can do what we’re doing at the moment, we’ll have a right crack off them.”