Former All-Ireland-winning Kerry captain Darran O’Sullivan has claimed David Moran is the de facto Kingdom skipper this year. Gavin White is Kerry’s official captain though O’Sullivan, who wore the armband in 2009 when Kerry won the All-Ireland, said experienced midfielder Moran is the undisputed team leader.
Kerry still observe the tradition of allowing the county champions to nominate the captain for the following season so Dr Crokes man White was chosen, despite only making his Championship debut in 2018.
White started four of Kerry’s six games this summer though didn’t line out against Tyrone and isn’t guaranteed to start Sunday’s final either while Stephen Cluxton, arguably Dublin’s most important player, will lead them.
“David is the leader,” said O’Sullivan. “David is the man, and he has shown that against Tyrone. He has shown it numerous times this year. He’d a lot of injuries at the start of the year.
"When he came back from honeymoon he was injured so the level he’s brought his game to with very little football played over the first six months of the year is frightening, so whoever it is that goes up for the toss of the coin doesn’t matter, David is the leader of that team.”
Asked if Moran is essentially Kerry’s de facto captain, O’Sullivan nodded: “That’s exactly it.”
Micheal Burns, White’s Kerry and Crokes club-mate, stated last November that he felt it was time to end the captaincy tradition and to allow the manager pick whoever he wants. It has led to scenarios over the years in Kerry where the captain isn’t guaranteed to play, a situation O’Sullivan was in himself in 2009.
The speedy forward didn’t start three of their first four games that summer, eventually winning back his place in time to lift the trophy.
“It was very different for me, when I got it, I was going into my fifth season at 22,” said O’Sullivan. “My job was to go up and toss the coin, tell the boys whatever was the outcome. I had the Ó Sés, I had Gooch, I had Declan, I had Galvin, I had O’Mahony, the list goes on.
“Our dressing room had fellas who had won numerous All-Irelands, so it was very different. I was only thinking about this recently and it was something someone was asking me about, in terms of the county championship at home.
“The team I would love to see winning is the likes of Kerins O’Rahillys, for David, because the one thing that is flawed about the (captaincy) rule is that the likes of David mightn’t get it, he is such a leader and would be great.”
Dublin are favourites to win Sunday’s final and to complete the five in a row with Cluxton captain for them all. But O’Sullivan insists the pressure is all on the Dubs.
“This game isn’t going to define Kerry at all — it could define the Dublin boys,” said O’Sullivan. “The pressure is on them, could be a situation of playing a young and coming Kerry team and Dublin should be winning the All-Ireland and they lost. So the pressure is on them. Simple as that really.
“Do they (Kerry) have any hope? Everyone is saying, ‘no’. People think I am doing ‘yerra this’ and ‘yerra that’ but it is the case. It’s a final, you are there to win it, and it’s not going to matter if you go, ‘Oh, you’ve loads of time’ because that’s not the way it works, but they actually have got loads, they are a year or two early.
“There is obviously pressure on Kerry, it’s a final, but the weight of expectation is on Dublin, five in a row. People are on about them winning seven, eight, nine, 10 in a row. Coming up against a bunch of young lads.”
O’Sullivan reckons Dublin will try to hit Kerry hard and early, and bury them with goals.
“The way they targeted the start of the second half against Mayo, I think they are going to try to do that from the start of the game the next day. I think they are going to try to go straight for goal. I just have it in my head. They are going to try to get that early start, get the crowd roaring and loud and see can they rattle Kerry early.”