Kerry to measure themselves against ‘standard bearers’ Dublin
Visit to Tralee of All-Ireland champions offers new boss Keane an opportunity to take stock
Kerry manager Peter Keane with selector Maurice Fitzgerald. “I don’t see managing expectations as being anywhere in my role or brief,” says Keane. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Kerry v Dublin, Austin Stack Park, Tralee, Saturday, 7.0 - Live on RTÉ2 & Eir Sport 1
At the end of last Sunday’s late but ultimately decisive win against Cavan, Kerry manager Peter Keane had his attention nudged in the direction of what awaited a week later.
In Tralee’s Stack Park this Saturday, Dublin are the visitors – in the foothills of a season they hope will climax in the pioneering ascent of a fifth successive All-Ireland.
Regardless of this potential history there are the perennial expectations of a Kerry-Dublin match, but Keane, after his second win in two matches, wasn’t minded to pay them much heed. “I don’t see managing expectations as being anywhere in my role or brief.”
The history of the league fixture this decade has been notable if not always significant.
On the one hand, Pat Gilroy nine years ago in Killarney unveiled the prototype of the team that would win the 2011 All-Ireland, and it announced itself with a first league win in Kerry since 1982.
On the other there was Kerry’s book-ending of Dublin’s record-breaking unbeaten run in league and championship between 2015 and 2017. The match that stopped it, the league final of 2017, appeared to mark a turning point in the fortunes of Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s team, but within a few months they had exited the championship against Mayo and Dublin had joined them in the select club of counties to have won four-in-a-row.
Fionn Fitzgerald, the Dr Crokes and former Kerry player, was in Dublin on Friday for a media event to promote the AIB club semi-finals. As a veteran of five league matches against Dublin, he was sceptical that they had much influence beyond any other fixtures.
“In the  league final there was no difference in our approach. It wasn’t built up as the biggest game we’d ever played or anything like that. The mentality has changed in league football, though. The games are more important but once they’re over you just move on, whereas in a championship game there is an awful lot more analysis.
“I’ll re-phrase that. They are the standard bearers, so you’re getting an idea of where you’re at when you play Dublin. It’s the same with any other county. When you’re playing one of the top teams, league or challenge, it’s a good gauge. Obviously there’s the traditional Dublin-Kerry connection. It’s a romantic fixture.”
That romance has tended to obscure dominant trends in the relationship. Unprecedentedly, Dublin have beaten Kerry in the last four championship encounters. Not surprisingly, league is a bit more equally distributed: this decade Dublin have won seven of the 11 encounters.
The bottom line, however, is that Dublin have six All-Irelands and five leagues.
Fitzgerald is artful when asked what he and Kerry have learned from league matches against Dublin.
“I don’t know. I never thought about it. You definitely learn more about playing against players on a team. You can watch all you want from the outside but you learn more being in there. Dublin have beaten us in the last number of championship matches so you’d expect that they learned more playing us.”
KERRY: Shane Ryan; Peter Crowley, Jack Sherwood, Brian Ó Beaglaíoch; Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy, Tom O'Sullivan; Jack Barry, Adrian Spillane; Diarmuid O'Connor, Seán O'Shea, Dara Moynihan; Paul Geaney, David Moran, Stephen O'Brien.