Preview: All-Ireland SFC Final – Dublin v Kerry:
Sunday 30th July
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final
Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, 3.30pm, RTE/BBC
Referee: David Gough (Meath)
Extra-time if necessary
A Championship that was sprinkled with drama culminates with the bluebloods of the game colliding in an All-Ireland Final.
At the penultimate stage Dublin and Kerry both encountered difficulties, but still found a way to earn this July 30 date.
Monaghan and Derry posed stern questions, but two decorated teams had the guts and guile to summon the necessary answers.
Ultimately it means that a 17th decider between Dublin and Kerry beckons. Kerry have won eight of the previous finals, Dublin six, with two draws, including the 2019 epic.
Valuable lessons were learned by an emerging Kerry outfit at that time. Jack O’Connor had the necessary craft to help Kerry plant the green and gold flag on the summit of the football world last year.
A Semi-Final triumph achieved over Dublin was a key moment in 2022 with Seán O’Shea’s remarkable free the decisive blow. It was a match, though, that showcased Dublin’s resilience too.
Since then Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, and Paul Mannion have returned to the Dublin fold. Con O’Callaghan missed that Kerry encounter through injury too. To add another layer of intrigue Pat Gilroy is part of Dessie Farrell’s backroom also.
Gilroy, of course, was the manager in 2011 when Cluxton famously guided over a pressure free to defeat Kerry.
Everywhere you turn there is history or a tale carrying some interest. An enduring rivalry.
For Kerry it has been a bit of a rollercoaster compared to 2022. Back then the progress through League and Championship was smooth.
This year the Allianz League, due to player unavailability and a later return to collective training, was mixed, but Kerry did enough to secure Division One status.
A Munster title followed with the minimum of fuss, but an All-Ireland Group Phase loss to Mayo in Killarney hurt deeply. Minds were refocused and momentum subsequently generated.
Cork, Louth, Tyrone, and Derry have all been beaten. David Clifford has been splendid, especially when the need was great against Derry.
Sean O’Shea remains a valuable contributor too, while Jack Barry and Diarmuid O’Connor’s relevance at centrefield shouldn’t be underestimated either.
Elsewhere Tadhg Morley continues to operate effective anchoring a Kerry defence, featuring the blistering speed of Gavin White, who is ready, willing, and able to venture forward.
Dublin, though, have shown glimpses of real class, especially in the Quarter-Final success over Mayo.
The green and red enjoyed a productive first half, but before the interval Dublin seized control. Captain James McCarthy led by example in that game, while Colm Basquel, landed crucial scores.
Monaghan, resourceful and typically defiant, were next on the agenda, but Dublin still had the composure to advance.
Brian Fenton continues to supply dynamism at midfield, Cormac Costello was splendid in the Monaghan game. Ciarán Kilkenny, McCaffrey, and Dean Rock were introduced as substitutes in that fixture underlining the depth of the Dublin panel.
This is an eagerly anticipated showpiece at GAA headquarters. The stakes are piled high. Sam Maguire is the mighty prize for whoever prevails.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Eoin Murchan, Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne; James McCarthy, John Small, Lee Gannon; Brian Fenton, Brian Howard; Paddy Small, Paul Mannion, Niall Scully; Cormac Costello, Con O’Callaghan, Colm Basquel.
Subs: Evan Comerford, Seán Bugler, Ciarán Kilkenny, Tom Lahiff, Seán McMahon, Jack McCaffrey, Ross McGarry, Cian Murphy, Daire Newcombe, Lorcan O’Dell, Dean Rock.
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Barry; Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; Paudie Clifford, David Clifford, Paul Geaney.
Subs: Shane Murphy; Adrian Spillane, Brian Ó Beaglaíoch, Mike Breen, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Ruairí Murphy, Micheál Burns, Killian Spillane, Dylan Casey, Donal O’Sullivan, Ronan Buckley.