Posted by Mickey Harte

As the build-up to the All-Ireland football.

Memories of an old rivalry

As the build-up to the All-Ireland football starts to get into gear it is hard not to think about the great history of the Dublin-Kerry rivalry.

I was fortunate enough to get to most of their games in the 1970s as my sister lived in Dublin so we would come down and stay with her and my late brother Peter was member of the Ulster council and he was always able to rustle up a couple of tickets.

I remember Dublin winning the All-Ireland in 1974 with a team that exhibited a new type of mobility. 1975 saw the emergence of a new young team of bachelors from Kerry which would change the complexion of the game from the on.

Hand passing became a big feature. Some observers talk about throwing passes now but in those days there was more of it than is the case today. It became an acceptable style of play and every type of hand pass was allowed, you could even hand pass goals. Goalkeepers had a torrid time of it!

Kerry were fantastic in 1975, scored 2-11 against Dublin in the final and it was a big shock to the system for the then champions. That was the game that Kerry captain Mickey Ned O’Sullivan was knocked out as he attempted to run through the Dub defence and Pat Spillane had the honour of lifting Sam Maguire in his absence.

I remember it as fast, furious football where great mobility came to the fore for the first time. Players moved around the pitch and positions and numbers didn’t mean as much as before. Some would say it is even more prevalent now but one man who talks a lot about defensive football these days, I seem to remember him as a half-forward spending a lot of time in his own defence, or even taking the ball from his own keeper and using his great athleticism to cover up and down the field.

I felt those times were really exciting for Gaelic football. Dublin and Kerry were way ahead of the pack and Ulster and Connacht were the poor relations. There was a buzz around Kevin Heffernan and his new style of play and their ability to match Kerry.

Dublin won the 1976 final, beating Kerry by seven points, 3-8 to 0-10 and then came the 1977 semi-final, which is rightly renowned as an outstanding game. The rivalry was now well established and it was a significant event that Dublin won. However their shelf-life was destined to be longer than that of the dubs.

From then on Kerry had a march on them, beating them in the 1978 final by 17 points, with Eoin Liston getting a hat-trick, something very unusual in those days. It was also the day of the famous Mike Sheehy goal over Paddy Cullen too. He was such a stylish player, so ahead of his time and he oozed class. He had style, finesse and athleticism, always in control and always having time on the ball.

The to and fro, the head-to-head just made that rivalry special but strangely Dublin haven’t beaten them in the Championship since then. Kerry went on to almost land five-in-a-row but for Seamus Darby and Dublin lost a lot of the old guard. Kerry would then win three more, beating Dublin in 1984 and 1985 and ourselves in 1986.

Kerry claimed eight All-Irelands between 1975 and 1986 but the rest of the GAA world should be thankful that Dublin were there to pick up three. Who knows how many Kerry would have won without them and those three All-Irelands were very important for the good of the game. It gave others hope that Kerry could be beaten if you prepared with complete dedication.

There were other finals and other games but when I think back to the 1970s and ‘80s the Kerry and Dublin encounters dominate my thinking. Their speed, energy and pace changed the face of Gaelic football.

At that time, Kerry and Dublin were the exponents of football at its best. Looking back at it now it may seem slow or sometimes of a lesser quality but it was accepted for what it was – simply the best. Today, even though the standard is the best that modern players can produce, some who played in that era want to disparage the current standard. That is not right.

We enjoyed it then, we thought it was fantastic. What we have now is the best current players and mentors can offer and it too is indeed very good. No doubt on reflection we will see plenty of ways to add value and improve again in the future.

There were lots of basic fundamental errors back then. Lads just kicking the ball the direction they were facing. There was more kicking but accuracy suffered.

Now we have a lot more care in kicking the ball, possession means a lot more and there may be less kicking but I would rather have less, but accurate kicking than a lot more aimless kicking.

People should look for the good in the game, not the faults. Back then the positives were extenuated unlike today where the opposite is often the case.

Personally I hope this is not the start of a new rivalry between these two giants of the past.

Dublin have taken the knocks and they are back for more. They took hard knocks against us in 2008 and Kerry in 2009 but they have overcome those now. The two victories over us in the last two years will have allowed them to put any bad memories of us behind them and they will now want to do the same towards Kerry.

Kevin Heffernan used to say winning an All-Ireland against Kerry was like winning two and there is great truth in that. Not because of any animosity to Kerry but they are the best and its always good to beat the best on the way to an All-Ireland title. If you win one without beating them it is somehow perceived as an undervalued All-Ireland. That’s not exactly 100 per cent true but there is an element of truth in it. It is a mark of respect for how good they are.

Finally a quick word on Kilkenny. It was immediately obvious looking at the Kilkenny defence that they were not going to allow Tipperary to flow at all. Brian Cody had them primed for a job to do and the hurt and hunger they have shone through. Stopping their five-in-a-row had to be avenged and they did it on Sunday.