Are Dublin running on fumes? Are Kerry suspect at the back? Are top players being targeted by referees instead of protected by them?
To try and take each of them separately, inclinations that the Dubs fuel light might be flashing is founded on the fact that they are leaving opponents with oxygen they would once have choked out of them.
Yet, I suppose it depends what way you view other parts of their game. Put it this way, is it admirable that they still have such luminaries as Cluxton, Fitzsimons, McCarthy, Small, Fenton, Mannion, Costello, Kilkenny and Rock in the trenches or is it worrying that they are still quite dependent on them?
Like a lot of things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Yes, it’s great to have such gems to unleash when required but if I were a Dub it would concern me more than a little that it was only when Kilkenny and Rock entered the fray that the valiant Monaghan challenge was finally quelled.
However, lest anybody think I was putting the boot into the Dubs, it should be pointed out that similiar questions could and should be posed regarding at least elements of Kerry’s make up. In Shane Ryan, they have the best custodian in the game presently.
However, while the incumbents of their full back line – Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan – are extremely good footballers but one does wonder might they be open to stern scrutiny when it comes to the basic rudiments of their defencive duties. Then, if that is genuinely the case, does it become a game of Russian Roulette of the ‘we’ll score more than you anyway’ variety.
Now, to the vast majority of competitors in most sports, such a policy would amount to taking a bungee jump with the chord cut. But it would appear Kerry do in fact have that luxury courtesy of having artillery in the person of Seanie O’Shea, the Clifford brothers and the somewhat forgotten Paul Geaney.
Mind you, for all that has been understandably vouched for the impact possible from the Dublin bench, Kerry won’t exactly be found wanting in that department either. In fact, they were left extremely indebted to another of their unsung heroes – Steven O’Brien – who, once introduced at half time, had what this neutral observer would consider to be his best ever outing in a Kerry jersey.
You can be sure there are players on county panels up and down the country of whom the question is routinely asked “How or why are they still in there?” Well, even from being very loosely attuned to the inter county scene for more than three decades, it can be attested with almost maximum surety that there are no players on a county panel who don’t deserve to be there and/or aren’t contributing anything when in there. Are there players not on county panels who should be? Absolutely, but that’s a different discussion altogether.
So, having. to some degree at least, assessed the strengths and – albeit miniscule – weaknesses of both Kerry and Dublin, who wins their latest joust? Reserve my seat on the fence, for now please. In the oldest reasoning ever deployed in GAA journalism, it could and quite likely will come down to centre field.
In more recent seasons, Dublin have definitely held sway in that sector – mostly due to the utter majesty of Brian Fenton therein. However, while not for a moment suggesting there has been a reduction in the Raheny legend’s productivity, Kerry’s credentials around the middle have markedly improved this year.
Again, that is in no way a slight on David Moran, just that Diarmuid O’Connor has developed into every bit the gargantuan influence around the bear pit in the middle as is Fenton.
Thus, even there it is nigh on impossible to assert that one has a definite advantage over the other. In the end, it may come down to the most obvious difference. Though if there’s anybody to succeed where others have come up short, it’s Mick Fitzsimons. Toss a coin!