Brennan knows Kingdom eager to settle a score in Sunday’s big showdown
Dublin centre-back fully aware stunning 2011 final defeat still rankles with Kingdom players
Ger Brennan: “There’s an awful lot we’ve to improve upon in our game. Up front we’re creating a good few opportunities but we’re not converting them.” Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
If Shakespeare had written Star Wars he would probably have thrown down his pencil after the sequel. If he had to write anything new about Dublin playing Kerry in the football championship he would definitely be struggling for words.
But if it’s as painfully predictable to answer the questions as it is to ask them then no wonder the players from both teams are resorting to some silly and sarcastic answers.
“Ah, sure there’s no history, there,” says Dublin defender Ger Brennan, sporting a cheesy smile. In fairness, it is early, during the bone-coloured dawn of the Dublin press gathering
Although, strictly speaking, there actually isn’t much history there, not recently anyway – as Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park is only the seventh meeting between the counties in 27 years, and that includes one replay (in 2001).
Brennan has only played Kerry once in the championship before, which happened to be their All-Ireland victory in 2011, and that was Dublin’s first win over Kerry since the 1977 All-Ireland semi-final.
So if there is such a thing as a great rivalry here it’s not exactly recent, and the history itself certainly favours Kerry, who have won 17 of their 26 championship meetings in total, with Dublin winning seven, and with two draws.
But the Dublin centre-back has a keen sense of an occasion that continues to fascinate – as is proven by the fact that Croke Park sold all 82,300 tickets a week ago.
“Ah yeah sure there is great history, and it’s well-documented. I remember a couple of Christmases ago getting Tom Humphries’ book from my parents, and really enjoying reading some of the stories that are in there.
“At that stage in my career, I certainly enjoyed the rivalry between both squads. But, as a player, you’re not afforded that privilege to get caught up in nostalgia. You really have to focus on the present, and the current Kerry team and what they bring. And also trying to put our own influence on the game.”
Still, beating Kerry in the 2011 final, as close as it was, and the last win being in 1977, must have had at least one monkey leaping off Dublin’s back?
Brennan is not so sure, but admits he was glad to see the back of the monkey that had prevented Dublin from winning an All-Ireland since 1995.
“Winning the All-Ireland was great, certainly. Kerry were the opposition on that day but it didn’t matter who it was. It was just great to win the All-Ireland.”
On that note, and with another painfully predictable question, does Brennan fear Kerry will be out for revenge on Sunday, for happened in 2011?
“Ah, you’re asking the wrong person, I suppose. I’d say the Kerry lads, if they’re honest, would say ‘yeah’. Talking to the media, they’d probably say ‘no’ and spoof you. The answer is probably yes.”
Indeed it probably is, and truth is Kerry will also be thinking back to the 2009 quarter-final, when they took Dublin apart, winning 1-24 to 1-7 in the end. Brennan didn’t play that day, as he was suspended, but he remembers enough about it to know Kerry can always be Kerry.
“Yeah I was in the stand that day, watching it, and had myself a nice Cornetto too. But, looking back now and over previous seasons, particularly when Pillar (Paul Caffrey) was manager, Dublin were the ‘next best thing’ and I think lads got quite caught up with that, within the squad, and that affected their performances. We duly received those lessons but it took us a long time to learn from them, up until Pat Gilroy came, to be honest.”
Now, with Jim Gavin in the cockpit, Dublin appear to be flying. They certainly seem to have pace to burn, although Brennan tries to keep a sober perspective on such talk.
“There’s an awful lot we’ve to improve upon in our game. Up front we’re creating a good few opportunities but we’re not converting them.
“And I remember playing under Pillar and there was certainly weights and analysis, but it’s just come up a few notches since. You might say it’s gone from Ordinary Level to Higher Level. I don’t know where it goes from here. I don’t think it can go any further.”
Last word then, on Kerry, who unlike Dublin, haven’t exactly been in vintage form this summer, at least not over the full 70 minutes.
“Well, Kerry might have poor games, and strong games, but they win most of the time,” says Brennan.
“And they’ve such a strong forward line, and they’re all such skilful players, that I’d say they might mix it around. So we’ll just prepare for every eventuality as best as possible. But we won’t get overly caught up with them either. There will come a time when we have to focus on ourselves as well.”