Given the competitive and entertaining nature of the drawn All-Ireland Final a fortnight ago, I believe that Saturday evening’s rematch is a more-eagerly anticipated contest.
This is because Kerry surprised a lot of us with how much they were able to trouble the Dubs. The Kingdom’s performance on the biggest stage showed us all that Peter Keane’s young players have arrived and are ready to compete for All-Irelands.
Having said this, you would have to admire the resilience of Jim Gavin’s Dublin, who played most of the game with 14 men and in the dying minutes they looked the most likely to claim the Sam Maguire.
Dublin will be relieved to have a second chance on Saturday evening to complete the historic “5-in-a-row”. The game throws in at 6pm in Croke Park and will be televised live on RTÉ2 and Sky Sports.
Kerry for the most part got their match-ups right in the last encounter.
Tadhg Morley did a good job in man-marking Paul Mannion and Tom O’Sullivan did reasonably well on Con O’Callaghan, who to be fair to the Cuala man, still caused the Kerry defence plenty of problems with his excellent ball-winning ability and direct running.
One man, that the Kingdom need to get to grips with is Dublin’s flying wing-back Jack McCaffrey. McCaffrey scored 1-03 from play in the drawn game in a “Man Of The Match” display and really stood up when the Dubs needed him. His sublime goal demonstrated exactly what the Clontarf man is all about.
The distance that Jack McCaffrey covers to score Dublin’s goal is phenomenal.
Would be really interesting to know what speed he was travelling at 🏃♂️#AllIrelandFinal #DUBvKER pic.twitter.com/eJItS9JsCG
— Sports Performance (@Peak_Sports_) September 1, 2019
Kerry captain Gavin White lined out at wing forward but, to be fair to the Dr. Crokes player, he was not man-marking McCaffrey. I think if Kerry are to get over the line this weekend they will need to curb McCaffrey’s influence on the game a lot more effectively.
I think that if Stephen O’Brien was to mark McCaffrey, it could be very effective for Kerry. This is because O’Brien’s direct running will give McCaffrey something to think about in terms of defending.
Another improvement Kerry will have to make is that they need to be a lot more clinical in front of goal. They created four clear goal-scoring opportunities and only took one of them, whereas Dublin had one goal-scoring opportunity and made no mistake.
Both David Clifford and Paul Geaney influenced the game positively for Kerry and never stopped working, but neither had their best day in front of the sticks. You would have to think, if Kerry are to stop this brilliant team, Geaney and Clifford will need to have their shooting boots on. Stephen Cluxton’s excellent penalty save from Geaney was another big moment in the drawn game.
Stephen Cluxton penalty save was top class.
All Ireland football final 2019.
Dublin v Kerry. pic.twitter.com/NMOelv7l6W
— Paraic Farrelly 1 (@FarrellyParaic1) September 2, 2019
For me, the Dubs have more areas where they can improve from the last day compared to Kerry. Defensively they struggled with some of Kerry’s marquee forwards. Johnny Cooper, in particular, was really under pressure every time the ball was kicked into David Clifford. He gave away the penalty and was sent off for three offences in which he was pulling and dragging out the young Kerry starlet.
The big question is, will Jim Gavin give Cooper a second chance to mark Clifford? For me, I think Michael Fitzsimons should get this difficult task. He did a much better job on Clifford when Cooper was dismissed. I do think that Cooper will retain his place in the starting 15, though.
Another part of Dublin’s game that was way below par was their midfield. Brian Fenton had his poorest day in a Dublin jersey and, to be fair to be him, it is probably the only time he has under-performed for Jim Gavin. This could be a bad thing for Kerry as it seems unlikely a quality player like Fenton will have two quiet games in a row.
I think we will see a different Brian Fenton on Saturday and at 15/2, he could be a good bet for “Man Of The Match”.
Sean O’Shea had a huge impact on the game for Kerry, particularly when Tommy Walsh came on in the last quarter of the game. James McCarthy, who had been having a good battle with O’Shea, was moved into full-back to mark Walsh and O’Shea then took the game by the scruff of the neck. He scored ten points in total, which is an incredible performance for a young player playing in his first All-Ireland Final.
Kerry’s bench had a much better impact than Dublin’s last time out. Tommy Walsh, Jack Sherwood and Killian Spillane all made telling contributions. Spillane, who could have felt hard done by to be left out of the starting 15, came on with a point to prove, and his 1-01 was just the tonic the Kingdom needed.
Excellent goal from Kerry corner forward Killian Spillane! pic.twitter.com/wuhxgi1dCo
— The GAA (@officialgaa) September 1, 2019
I went with Dublin last time out, and I’m sticking with them. I think Kerry can push them all the way but, if it stays 15 v 15, I think Dublin’s experience and know-how can get them over the line.
Kerry will know they need to start quickly. They were creating loads of opportunities early on two weeks ago, and I have no doubt that Peter Keane will be stressing the fact that they need to be more clinical. Kerry came from five points behind twice, which shows real character, but they will be hoping to play the game on their terms this time around.
So, considering all this, I think Kerry Half-Time/ Dublin Full-Time is a decent value bet @ 15/4.
Hopefully we see another classic on Saturday evening!
Verdict: Dublin @ 3/10
Value Bet: HT/FT – Kerry/Dublin @ 15/4
RTÉ Man Of The Match Prediction: Brian Fenton @ 15/2