Kerry legend Jack O’Shea believes the Kingdom need to strike a psychological blow in Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 final — and end their recent losing streak against Dublin at Croke Park.
Dublin have won All-Ireland finals in 2011 and 2015 against Sunday’s opponents, while also claiming victory at the semi-final stage in 2013.
Gaelic football’s heavyweights will face off at GAA HQ in a league decider for the first time since 1987 — and O’Shea insists that the best two teams in the competition have made it to the final.
Seven-time All-Ireland senior medallist O’Shea said: “I think they’re the best two teams in Division 1. Kerry had a slow start but once they got players back and got into a bit of form, they won a few games and gained confidence.
“They’ve had a few good results, particularly away from home. They’ve come on quite a bit but I must say the Dubs look really strong, and have an exceptional panel at the moment.
“They’ve used a lot of players throughout the league but when you’re on top and going well, you can do that.
“But Kerry are going into it with a fair bit of confidence. I thought in the first half against Roscommon they were very good with their kick-passing.
“Roscommon had been going very well earlier in the season and were fitter than other teams but Kerry put them away handy enough.
“Dublin played Donegal and while Donegal frustrated them quite a bit when they first met, they don’t have the legs any more to play the game they’re trying to play.
“Dublin look strong, look good, are playing with a lot of variety and their biggest problem is picking their best team.
“Kerry and Dublin are both capable of beating each other. Look back on last year’s All-Ireland final, Kerry were very poor on the day but Dublin didn’t win by much.”
O’Shea said defeat for either side won’t concern them too much — but he suspects that Kerry’s need is greater.
O’Shea explained: “I just feel Kerry need to beat them, from their own point of view, to know that they can beat them.
“I don’t think it would affect Kerry if they’re beaten, likewise Dublin, and the big thing for Dublin is that they can push hard in the league because Leinster doesn’t give them much opposition.
“It’s their last competitive match before the Leinster championship and they’ll go through that without a real test. Jim Gavin will want to know what players he has for the big days in August and September.”
O’Shea believes both defences are suspect — and that Sunday’s game will be won from midfield up.
He added: “Kerry have the talent to a degree but I still think their defence could be tighter and stronger.
“From midfield forward, there’s plenty of variety and a lot of options but not too may in defence.
“Both teams are very similar on Sunday — their strengths will be from midfield up.
“They’re both suspect in defence and it will be a game of tactics. I don’t think you’ll see too many kickouts from Dublin going into the middle, Kerry are strong there. Having said that, Kerry have always forced Dublin into mistakes from the short kickouts so it should be intriguing.
“Eamonn Fitzmaurice would love to get a win over Dublin, there’s a national title at stake and both teams will be going for it. I’m expecting a good, open game of football on Sunday, fast and furious with lots of scores.”
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