Friday, September 14, 2007

Kerry On Winning

Moving on, then, to the major field sports at which we can't suffer international embarassment...

Funny old All-Ireland, this one. Barely more hype and hullabaloo than a decent provincial final. In fact, many have described the feeling ahead of Kerry v Cork as not much more than that of a Munster final, with the location, date and reward being a minor footnote.

As well as the distractions in France and in central Europe, it's the flipside of all the good things the qualifier system has brought us. All the novel pairings, all the hitherto neglected counties having their 15 minutes of fame, the extra fixtures - it's all done wonders for Championship GAA. But when you get a final like this one, it feels like getting an invite to the afters of a wedding: you're more than welcome to come along later, but, you know, it's going to be quite a private ceremony.

Funny, though, I recall much more anticipation for the Tyrone v Armagh final in 2003. Perhaps that was the novelty of the fixture, or the interest in what, at the time, seemed like a frightening new epoch of Ulster dominance. (Remember when RTE sent Tommie Gorman to make a documentary called The Men Behind Maguire shortly after Tyrone won that year. It seemed like Gorman was playing Leni Riefenstahl to Mickey Goebbels and Adolf Kernan at the time).

Leaving aside the likely disappointing viewing figures for Up For The Match tomorrow night, this is still an intriguing final between two very fine sides. I hesitate to tagline it as a battle between the forwards of Kerry and the backs of Cork; both have oodles of quality in the opposing halves, particulary Cork with the return of sharpshooting James Masters.

But why complicate things? Cork will succeed if they dominate the Kerry forward machine. Graham Canty is the type of defender you'd go to war with, and if anyone can subdue Kieran Donaghy, it is he. But the loss of Anthony Lynch hurts. The Gooch loves All-Ireland finals. He just does.

In the Munster final, which Kerry won by two points, Cork enjoyed a spell of dominance when they wrested control of midfield. The Rebels are strong here with Nicholas Murphy and Derek Kavanagh, and Michael Cussen will presumably be brought out again to buttress that area for Cork. They pretty much strangled Meath here in the semi, and Sunday demands a huge game from Darragh O Sé to hold the fort here.

But Kerry are not Meath. They seem to putting together one of those wonderfully timed Sam Maguire runs that they are able to do by second nature. Doing enough against Cork in Munster, Monaghan in the quarter-final, releasing the throttle a little more to pull away from Dublin.

With a bench bursting with impact players, Sam should make that familiar trip again this year.

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