Tomás Ó Sé got chatting to Jack O’Connor recently and something his former manager said about Dublin, Kerry and the five in a row struck a chord with Ó Sé.
“He made a good point,” said Ó Sé. “He said there’s probably far more talk about the five in a row down in Kerry than there would be in Dublin. Because of the history that’s there in Kerry, and because of the heartache that’s there from ’82. Like, any time you mention the five in a row to a Kerry person, they’ll immediately think of (Seamus) Darby and they’ll think of that goal.”
Tomás’ uncle, Páidí, was playing for Kerry in 1982 when Darby came off the bench to score the winning goal for Offaly, denying Mick O’Dwyer’s side the five in a row.
You might imagine then Tomás would love nothing more than to see his county stop Dublin from finally reaching the Holy Grail this weekend. To correct the record book in some small way?
“I don’t know, maybe it’s the romantic in me, but if Dublin were to do the five in a row, it won’t be the end of the world,” responded Ó Sé.
A lot of fellas in Kerry are worried that the fivei in a row will be done but look, if they do it, they’ll deserve it.
Between Páidí and Tomás, they have 13 All-Ireland senior medals yet neither of them probably went into any of those finals with as little expectation upon them as the Kerry team this weekend.
It’s an observation Tomás can’t argue with, describing it as a ‘free shot’ for the Kingdom.
It was a point he made in the course of answering whether Peter Keane, previously the Kerry minor manager, is ready for the challenge of Dublin.
“I’d imagine there is a huge difference between minor and senior,” acknowledged Ó Sé.
“He brought his whole team with him, the selectors, Tommy (Griffin) included.
I wouldn’t really necessarily say if he loses this year... like, I think it’s a free shot. Kerry have a free shot at this because everybody in the whole country reckons that Dublin are going to win this.
“The whole country can’t make an argument for Kerry winning it, so it is a free shot, so in that regard the same pressure (isn’t there), and I know there is pressure there, but as long as it’s not a major collapse, there will be a certain leeway given.”
That, of course, may be perceived as possibly the most Kerry comment ever made — that the pressure is all on Dublin.
But Ó Sé says he genuinely believes it and reckons that this is a special Dublin side his county will come up against.
To make his point, he rewinds a decade to 2009 when he was part of a Kerry team that beat Dublin by 17 points in the All-Ireland quarter- finals.
“We knew that it was knockout and that if we just threw it at them, we could get on top of them, the start we got was electric and we just kept going at them,” he said.
“I think that Dublin team there now wouldn’t allow that to happen. Because that team of ’09 hadn’t crossed the line, the belief was sucked out of them a lot quicker than it would be this team.
Like, Tyrone hit Dublin last year and they didn’t panic, whereas I think they did panic (in ’09) and we got inside their heads and it was game over before we knew it.
Nobody could have predicted the winning streak Dublin would go on over the following decade.
They’re on the brink of their seventh All-Ireland win in nine seasons now and Ó Sé reckons that, should things continue in this vein, it could be time for an official intervention to level out the playing field again.
“It is scary when you think of the population up there, whatever it is, 1.3 or 1.4 million, could go up in the next 10 years to 2 million,” said Ó Sé.
“And you’re just looking on at thinking, ‘Wow, they’ve harnessed everything here, they’re organised and if they stay going along this track...’
Like, look at the way they’ve even evolved over the last five, six or seven years, there will be more Brian Fentons, more Ciaran Kilkennys.
“But then, I was talking to Pillar Caffrey lately and he has a belief, you take Jim Gavin out, you take Cluxton out of it, take a couple of the more senior players out, and they lose something.
“I’d give it time but if it’s a case that they’re winning six, seven, definitely something then will have to be done down the road, because it would be an issue.
“You cannot say that the resources they have, the numbers they have, do not make a difference.”
But what would you do?
“I don’t know,” shrugged Ó Sé. “I don’t agree with fellas saying it’s financial doping at the same time.
“Whatever numbers they have, Dublin have organised themselves, and they didn’t do anything wrong by organising themselves. They just organised themselves to a level where it’s a constant flow coming through now.”