The excitement is building for Sunday's All Ireland semi final between Dublin and Kerry. Proud Kerryman and GAA nerd Patrick Buckley is the eternal optimist, and has six reasons why he thinks his count will prevail on Sunday.
Kerry v Dublin is the most anticipated game of the summer and so it should be. It's the jackeens versus the culchies, the city slickers versus the farmersand the capital versus the Kingdom. It should be one of the games of the summer also because both teams play an attacking brand of football and there are no seven man defences, so it should be a high scoring and open game.
Dublin go in as strong favourites but here are six reasons why I think Kerry will prevail on Sunday.
1. Age Is Not A Factor
People up and down the country seem to be obsessing about the age of some of Kerry's key players such as Tomas and Marc O'Sé, Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin, Eoin Brosnan, Aidan O'Mahony and Kieran Donaghy. They may still be the key figures in the team but show me an inter-county team they wouldn't be key figures in.
Of the current Kerry panel, 22 of the 27 are 27 years old or younger, that shows the Kerry panel are far from old. So don't believe anyone on Sunday that tells you this is an ageing team, they may be inexperienced and not up to the standard of years gone by but they are not ageing. It might just prove on Sunday that they come up against a very very good Dublin team but Fitzmaurice has assembled a very good young team and it will take a great effort by Dublin to beat them.
2. Young Guns
Paul Mannion has been one of the young players of the summer; he has scored 2-6 for Dublin and has been one of their stand-out performers. My only worry for Mannion is he was quiet enough by his standards against Cork and now on Sunday he will face a tough tackling defender from north Kerry in Shane Enright. There is no doubting his ability but he would be greatly helped by having a consistent full forward (No one knows who will play there on Sunday, will it be Cullen,Rock, Andrews or O'Gara) and a Bernard Brogan in top form.
There is a lot of pressure on him on Sunday to deliver and we will see what he is made of as they say.
That brings me then to James O'Donoghue who for me is the best natural corner forward Kerry have had since Gooch, If James O'Donoghue is fully fit on Sunday I can see him creating a lot of problems for Dublin. He has a confidence about him that makes him a special player, he destroyed Cork in the Munster final and was very unlucky not to get man of the match. He scored 2-3, missed a good goal opportunity (went for it selfishly which is a good sign) and won his fair share of frees. For me O'Donoghue is going in under the radar on Sunday which will help him and I expect by Monday morning he will be the talk of the country.
3. Out Of The Lime Light
Donnacha Walsh is a player that frustrates more Kerry supporters the most I have ever seen, he never shoots, he looks spent after 10 minutes and he keeps another supposed better player out of the team. So then I ask myself why does he get on all these Kerry teams? Jack O'Connor picked him, Pat O'Shea picked him, Eamon Fitzmaurice picked him, are they all fools? No.
The reason they pick him is because of his work rate and the unselfish work he does for the team. Watch Walsh on Sunday he will be up and down that field like a penguin on a pogo stick. I have watched him play with the Kerry minors and at that age level he was getting 2-3 points per game from midfield so what has changed? He is playing with players that can score with their eyes closed and he does not see that as his main objective.
Donnacha Walsh's main aim is to get the ball to the players that can do most damage and link defence with attack. I expect a big game by Walsh on Sunday and he will be a key player if he is going to be picking up Jack McCaffrey. I have every faith in Donnacha and I'm sure he'll be one of the unsung heroes again on Sunday if Kerry prevail but that won't bother him just as long as his adding to his All-Ireland medal collection.
4. The Young Pretender v The Master
Colm Cooper is playing in his 11th championship season with Kerry, Ciarán Kilkenny is playing in his second season, Colm Cooper has four All-Ireland medals and seven all-stars, Ciarán Kilkenny has none, Com Cooper is 30 years old, Ciarán Kilkenny is 20 years old. Then why last week was Joe Brolly comparing these two players? It's simple. They both play with the number 11 on their backs and that is the only comparison I can see other than Joe wanting to make the headlines by slating Gooch again.
It's no offence to Killkenny, I'm sure he will have a great career ahead of him but this Sunday the only way people will be comparing the two is because they wear number 11 and possibly because they have red hair. I fully expect he will be shown a lesson by the master. Colm Cooper will be a key player once again if Kerry are to win and I can see him pulling the strings even if Dublin are naive enough to leave Ger Brennan on him or have a plan for marking him.
5. Mystique Surrounding Kerry
Kerry have trained behind doors for the first time in their history. No one knows how Kerry are going or what they are doing. For all we know Gooch could be playing in the full forward line or Paul Galvin could be playing centre-back. We will know nothing until Sunday at 3.30pm and neither will Dublin.
This I think can only be a good thing for Kerry, Dublin will be up in the capital preparing for such and such a scenario, but on Sunday Kerry could throw them a curve ball in the first 10 minutes and they will be at sixes and sevens. So for this alone I think the Kerry management have the upper hand because everyone will know barring a change at centre-back or full-forward for Dublin what their team is.
6. 14 All-Ireland Medals
That is how many All-Ireland medals Bryan Sheehan, Aidan O'Mahony, Kieran Donaghy and Eoin Brosnan have between them. I expect to see at least three of the four of them on Sunday at some stage. I read somewhere during the week that Mayo were the only team left in Ireland who could compete with Dublin's bench, I couldn't disagree more.
I might be wrong but I think Kerry have the best bench in Ireland because they can cover every area. If we are in trouble at the backs you can bring on O'Mahony or Brosnan, at midfield you can bring on David Moran or Bryan Sheehan, and in the in the forward line you can bring on Kieran Donaghy and change the game plan. That is without even mentioning Kieran O'Leary, Paul Geaney or Johnathan Lyne.
Dublin's five subs against Cork were: Dean Rock, no All Irelands and will shoot on sight which can be a bad thing , Philly McMahon, couldn't get on panel at start of year, Kevin McManamon, Denis Bastick who other than that back flip in All-Ireland final wouldn't get on the Kerry panel, and Eoghan O'Gara, a great man to win the ball but don't ask him to shoot. So looking at subs that came on in last game for Dublin I can only see one bench that would make a significant difference, and it's not Dublin's.