Only ‘Kerryness’ can block Dublin’s road to five in a row

One thing the Kerry players certainly won’t lack facing into Sunday is belief they can win

Brian Fenton and Jack Barry in action last year. If Kerry can covertly ‘cute hoor’ their way to a 38th title, denying Dublin history in the process, it would make for perhaps their sweetest win of all. Photograph: Inpho

Brian Fenton and Jack Barry in action last year. If Kerry can covertly ‘cute hoor’ their way to a 38th title, denying Dublin history in the process, it would make for perhaps their sweetest win of all. Photograph: Inpho

 

The Kerry County Board is too cute to ape their Cork brethren with public talk of “Kerryness”. But in many minds the only thing preventing this Sunday’s All-Ireland football final from being a five-in-a-row formality for Dublin is a vague notion of “Kerryness” somehow upsetting the odds.

It’s an intangible factor and in this era of bleep-tested, biometric precision it is completely irrational.

The days of yore when the Kingdom could intimidate opposition simply by wearing green and gold are gone. Tales of All-Ireland winners suddenly emerging from the mists of Lyrecompane are romantic but mostly redundant.

Every Kerry player has long since been analysed to chromosome depth by Dublin. There will be little element of surprise at Croke Park on Sunday.

Inevitably this week there will be all sorts of space-filling speculative coverage as to how it might happen

It adds to a general presumption of Dublin being impregnable to having their date with drive-for-five destiny foiled. They’re unbackable 1-5 favourites to prove themselves, in the eyes of many, the finest Gaelic football team of all.

But still, it’s Kerry. Anyone else and this would be more coronation than championship decider. Neutrals paying attention to the third quarter of Dublin’s semi-final win over Mayo couldn’t logically come to any other conclusion. But still, it’s Kerry. You never know. There’s always a kick in them.

A total of 37 All-Ireland titles proves that. One thing the Kerry players certainly won’t lack facing into Sunday is belief that they can win. What’s little more than a buzzword in the mouths of so many others is bred into the marrow of Kerry football.

‘Cute-hoor’

John B Keane’s famous line about a Kerry footballer with an inferiority complex being one who thinks he’s just as good as everybody else is likely to get taken out for a spin this week. So might the bit about their being only two real kingdoms: the kingdom of God and, well, you know where.

Unlike their neighbours to the east it’s the sort of conceited playfulness that no one from Kerry would have the bumptious gall to stick between two covers and present to the world as a message of intent.  

The whole Kerry stereotype lives and breathes around everyone knowing they’re much too shrewd for such own-goals.    

After all the Kingdom is the spiritual home of the “cute-hoor”, a place where helping you of a dilemma is as much of an obligation as putting you in it in the first place.

It’s what turns the simple interjection “yerra” into noun, verb, adjective, modifier, subjunctive mood and whatever you’re having yourself.

If Keane also described the Galway races as a state of mind it’s hard not to suspect he might have been road-testing the line for use closer to home only to conclude it to be too blatant. One thing Kerry must never be is too obvious.

If such talk can feel fanciful it still manages to stick in the GAA where county identity gets expressed more than anywhere else through such clichés. They might feel like self-fulfilling prophecies sometimes but they still have a life of their own. It’s why this final is the ultimate test of “Kerryness”.

Ultimately such silver-bullet stuff probably is rubbish

By every sporting metric Dublin are Kerry’s superior, and by some way too, having proven themselves invincible over the years to whatever circumstances is thrown at them. They are an awesome machine with some of the finest players the game has seen operating at their peak.

The idea of what they might do to a team if they replicated that third quarter against Mayo throughout 70 minutes is chilling. If they get beaten on Sunday it will be the greatest shock in the All-Ireland football final’s 131-year history.

Inevitably this week there will be all sorts of space-filling speculative coverage as to how it might happen. Various tactical permutations and personal testimonies will be parsed for significance in what logically seems a waste of energy.

Because after all the talking’s done the chances of a shock ultimately come down to whether or not Kerry might “cute-hoor” something out of the hat.

It’s a suspicion rooted in nothing but tradition but we’ll tune in any way on the off-chance, as much to find out if notions of “Kerryness” can amount to something as out of obligation to watch potential history in the making.

Individual battles

The seductive anticipation even manages to overcome evidence that such romance is pretty much redundant in Gaelic football.

A game that once revolved around a series of individual battles has morphed into a methodical exercise in possession. Removing chance from the equation as much as possible has become mandatory.

Whether one thinks it’s evolution or often an exercise in systemic tedium is a personal judgment. The outcome though is that maintenance of possession is paramount. And that makes the odds against upset results even longer.

Still, the idea of some of Kerry football’s shrewdest minds congregating this week in some Fitzgerald Stadium boot-room, unpicking Dublin weaknesses that has been stubbornly unidentifiable to everyone else, will lurk underneath the surface of this week’s build-up.

Maybe some retro-masterstroke will be unveiled, like betting the house on another inspired move such as when convoluted systems got famously shouldered into smithereens simply by moving Kieran Donaghy to full-forward.

Or it might be some sweet science of their own that turns a vulnerable-looking defence into a leak-proof bulwark.  

Anyone else and you’d dismiss it as codswallop. Ultimately such silver-bullet stuff probably is rubbish. But don’t forget no one has more riding on “Kerryness” than Kerry people themselves. There’s a lot of identity bound up in the team somehow finding a way to prevail on Sunday.

Despite the odds there’s enough in it too for the rest of us to hang our interest on.

After all if Kerry can covertly “cute hoor” their way to a 38th title, denying Dublin history in the process, it would make for perhaps their sweetest win of all. 

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