Final Countdown: Could Kerry spring lightning Bolt against Dublin?
Peter Keane needs to deliver some more outside-the-box thinking if Kerry are to upset the odds
How to do you solve a problem like Jack McCaffrey? You know what’s coming and when he eventually hits the gas it’s like watching a fox flee the coop with your prized Rhode Island Red. It was no surprise to see the Clontarf speedster register 1-3 from half-back the last day and he will no doubt have been a central discussion point at Kerry team meetings last week. So who will be assigned the unenviable task of following him?
Kerry aren’t averse to outside-the-box thinking and perhaps they can call in a favour from an old friend in the Caribbean, a man who should have no problem dealing with McCaffrey’s turn of pace, though his execution of basic skills appear ropey at best going by grainy YouTube footage. The All-Ireland-winning Kerry side from 2009 met Usain Bolt on their team holiday to Jamaica in January 2010 at the invitation of Digicel, the Denis O’Brien-owned company that sponsored the world-record holder. Assuming his basic skills have improved since, there may be no better man to keep tabs on McCaffrey as well as switching defence swiftly to attack - a key component of the modern game. Peter Keane needs to deliver some more outside-the-box thinking if Kerry are to upset the odds. Deploying the speedy Jamaican would be just that.
It’s perhaps a fitting footnote to the finale: that the man who threw up the first ball of the championship will officiate the final game of the year, from the Bronx back to Croker. But Conor Lane is no stranger to the autumnal showpiece, having previously officiated the 2016 drawn final between Dublin and Mayo as well as last year’s between Dublin and Tyrone. It will also be the Banteer/Lyre man’s third time in charge of a Dublin game this summer after he officiated their games with both Kildare and Mayo. But rather interestingly, this will be only his second time taking charge of a championship game involving Kerry. His only other experience involving the county came in the 2013 Munster quarter-final when Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side welcomed Tipperary to Killarney. The home side eased to facile 17-point victory on that occasion. Dublin, similarly, have never lost a championship game with Lane in the middle, meaning one unblemished record must go today.
Down Memory Lane
2001 All-Ireland quarter-final, Semple Stadium: Kerry 2-12, Dublin 1-12 - the last replay between the two counties came in 2001, the first year of the current championship format.
Drama in the dressing room
Croke Park has been a busy place with ongoing preparations for a weekend that begins with Dublin and Kerry on Saturday evening before finishing with a festival of ladies’ football on Sunday. But on top of that, a one-man play written and performed by Cavan man Alan Bradley took place in the stadium’s dressing rooms on Thursday and Friday as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. The performances were based around the mental health of a rural footballer as he prepares for a county final. The show, directed by Elif Knight, returns to GAA headquarters this coming week with two more performances on Wednesday and Thursday, September 18th/19th.
Speaking to The42 website last month, Bradley said: “When you have the whole area of mental health, it can be very heavy. And obviously, there are heavy moments in this play. But a lot of it is quite fun and light and hopefully engaging in a way that’s not just doom and gloom. You get to go on a real journey with a character and really see how someone’s mental health can play out.”
For those who miss out on tickets Bradley will be performing his play again later on in the year in his native Virginia.
Word of Mouth
“Everybody is after him - he’s well and truly looked after now” - As Kerry’s Mickey Ned O’Sullivan is persistently fouled and then clobbered to the ground by Dublin defenders in the 1975 All-Ireland final, Micheal O’Hehir describes the action in an amusing and understated way.