Posted by Mickey Harte

I am looking forward to Sunday’s All-Ireland final as it promises to be an intriguing encounter.

Dublin to edge Sam

I am looking forward to Sunday’s All-Ireland final as it promises to be an intriguing encounter. The message from the Kerry camp suggests they want to play an attacking brand of football but no doubt they meet a stubborn defence in the modern Dublin set up.

The Leinster champions will be defensive, as they have been all year. In fact, it has been their style for the last two years to concentrate on defence first and attack later. They want to protect their back line and they believe they have a formula for that with their half-forwards filtering back. Even when they do attack, they don’t throw caution to the wind, they curtail their forward adventure and prefer to deliver the ball to their inside forwards.

That proved problematic against Donegal, they were still sending in the ball to well-outnumbered players. If Kerry aren’t playing deep, then those players will be receiving the ball one-on-one and Dublin will fancy that as it will afford them many more scoring opportunities than was the case in the semi-final.

It's unlikely that they will have as prolific a day like the one they had against us in the quarter-final, when everything they hit went over, but they still have a high strike rate in championship football.

Kerry can adapt when necessary in all types of games but on this occasion I would think it probable that they set up more defensively than usual. I think Donnchadh Walsh will be deployed as an additional defender and I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul Galvin doesn’t join him in that role from the off. This would allow the attacking flair of Declan O’Sullivan and Darran O’Sullivan to attempt to punch holes in the Dublin defence.

Midfield is no longer the domain of 8 and 9 and is normally described as the middle third of the field where regularly players from 5-12 on either side are competing for possession. Dublin have the edge in this department from their own kick-outs due to the accuracy of their goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

It is highly unlikely that Kerry will be able to pick off scores close to the Dublin goal due to the number of Dublin bodies that are likely to be positioned there. This will necessitate attempting to pick off scores from further out the field and perhaps from more difficult angles.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in the fact that this is the first All-Ireland for this Dublin panel. Dublin may not have been here before but they have been knocking on the door. They have not arrived here out of the blue. They have a number of Leinster titles, they have been in All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals so they are not complete novices. They are well used to playing in front of big crowds too so I don’t think this occasion will necessarily fill them with much trepidation. Despite the fact that this group have not won an All-Ireland this team are very experienced.

Some observers question the age profile of the Kerry team but I think this is unfair to this group of top class Gaelic football athletes. There is a good spread of ages in their team and because players such as Colm Cooper and Declan O Sullivan have been around for so long we could lose sight of the fact that they are only 28.

Kerry have shown that they can adapt to defensive role when necessary. Since 2003/4 they have used Paul Galvin in a Brian Dooher-type role, leaving just one wing-forward in attack. It wasn’t as systematic as we have seen in recent years but they are well able to adapt and I think it will serve them well to do so. It may not be their natural style but in a final winning is the only thing that really matters.

The Kerry management team may have been at this stage before but every game from the quarter-final on is an All-Ireland final because if you lose you are out. There’s much more learning in a comprehensive defeat and Pat Gilroy this Dublin side have been through a few of those in recent years. It is often said in the modern game that it is a 20 man game and to that end Dublin appear to have more strength, depth and experience on the bench.

The role of the referee, Joe McQuillan, could prove crucial in the outcome of this game. His interpretation of the group tackle and whether he comes down on the player in possession, or the collective force of numbers will have a serious influence on the outcome. If he awards frees for that it will be a serious advantage to the attacking players, but if he comes down on the side of the disciplined group defending then that will suit Dublin’s style of play.

There are many variables at play on how the game will pan out, from injuries, to weather or even how each team reacts to an early setback. The way the Dublin defence has performed to date augurs well for their ability to negate the undoubted prowess of individual Kerry forwards. Ultimately, I believe the key to the outcome of this game will be whether the Dublin defensive system can curtail the attacking flair of the Kerry forwards.

Despite the messages coming from the Kerry camp that they intend to play their usual attacking style I believe they will set up more defensively. Consequently this could well be a low scoring final where anything from 12-14 points could win the title. In a defensive face off like this I feel Dublin will come out on top.
Is Mickey right? Will it be a low-scoring final with Dublin to edge it? Let hm know in the comments below...