Do Kerry have what it takes to overcome the four-time champions, Dublin, in the replay of the GAA All-Ireland football final this Saturday? These experts seem to think so
They've brought Saturday night Mass in Castleisland forward by an hour this weekend to enable Kerry fans to watch the All-Ireland final replay against Dublin – and one Kerryman in exile will be watching from afar as he prays for a Kingdom win.
Kerry great John Egan’s son John started for Ireland against Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium for a friendly on Tuesday night, but another big game dominated his sit-down interview with the media on Sunday, a week after he watched the drawn game at Croke Park.
His late father won six All-Ireland titles but was captain on the day Kerry surrendered their five-in-a-row dream to Offaly back in 1982, a result that still represents the last time any team went close to a fifth straight date with Sam Maguire.
For Sheffield United star Egan, the roles could be reversed on Saturday when Kerry can derail Dublin’s drive for five but, like the Mass-goers in Castleisland, he will have to watch the replay on the telly with his fingers crossed for his dad’s county.
He may have been born and reared in Cork, but Egan made it clear to the soccer writers ahead of Tuesday night’s international friendly with Bulgaria that he rooting for Kerry on Saturday and confident they can win it.
His optimism is based on what he saw for himself at Croke Park two Saturdays ago. “I think it’ll be another good game and the Dubs are good. But about 15 of the Kerry players were playing in their first final and that’ll stand to them,” said Egan.
“A lot of people say they left it behind, but I think it’s only the start for this Kerry team and hopefully the forwards can do well again and get them over the line. Even though the Dubs had a man sent off, up until then I didn’t think there was much in the game.
“It’s going to be a big ask to beat Dublin, but Kerry have got to be confident and take a lot of belief from the last day.”
Egan, whose Sheffield United side host Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, isn’t the only Kerryman looking to the replay with a real belief that Dublin may not have it their own – and Colm Cooper should know after winning four Celtic Crosses in his own career.
“Some Kerry players felt that they under-performed last day out,” Cooper told the RTE GAA podcast. “For any player that wants an opportunity to turn that around very quickly, you’ve two weeks to do it on the biggest stage again. It’s great incentive for players to turn it around very quickly.
“Dublin may have been over-confident the last day and these Kerry players will feed on that. I thought probably the expectancy and -- probably the first time I’ve ever associated this word with Dublin -- complacency caught up with Dublin a small bit last week. I think maybe they went in a bit over-confident in the match. And Kerry maybe exposed them in some ways. And none of us thought they would.
“It was just such a funny match. I remember looking up at the scoreboard and Dublin, even though they’d only 14 men, were still five points clear in the second half. When Kerry ate into the gap, it gave that bit of confidence that we’re still hanging around. Killian Spillane’s goal gave them such a lift.
“I think maybe the momentum may have changed going into the replay. Kerry really now believe -- obviously the players always believed -- but I think in the back of the supporters’ minds they felt it was an uphill task for Kerry in the drawn match.
“They were going more in hope than expectation last time. The vibe I’m picking up around Killarney and Tralee the last few days is that they’re a lot more upbeat. They feel now that they’re at Dublin’s level. They weren’t sure before the match.”
One Kerryman with some sound advice for Dublin manager Jim Gavin is Kieran Donaghy – he wants to see Diarmuid Connolly start on Saturday.
“To me, there’s a strong case for starting Diarmuid Connolly in midfield,” wrote Donaghy in his Irish Daily Star column.
“The Connolly situation isn’t straightforward and I knew that would be the case. Last week, the likes of Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O’Gara and Eric Lowndes didn’t make the match-day squad. Connolly was there and he was put on when the game was in the melting pot.
“Only two months ago, he was in Dublin Airport getting ready to go to Boston for the summer. Only an issue with his visa stopped him from traveling. A few weeks later, Gavin brought him back and then used him in an All-Ireland final. Gavin might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb now. He made the decision to use him in the drawn game. So, he might as well go the whole hog.
“And you’ll get more out of Connolly as a starter, especially as Dublin needs something different in midfield.”