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6 questions: The42’s writers preview the All-Ireland football final

Gavin or Fitzmaurice? Who are the key men? And who will be taking Sam home tomorrow?

1. Which manager has done a better job this year – Jim Gavin’s recovery from Donegal 2014 loss or Eamonn Fitzmaurice getting the champions back to September?

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fintan O’Toole
Both manager have remarkably similar records in their three seasons in charge – a provincial three-in-a-row, an All-Ireland title and a solitary defeat that occurred at the All-Ireland semi-final stage. Gavin suffered at the hands of Donegal last year but has assembled a hardened team in 2015. Yet Fitzmaurice has done marginally better in getting an All-Ireland winner back to the final, recovering from when they got out of jail against Cork and keeping a talented, multi-layered squad happy.

Niall Kelly
There’s very little to choose between them this season. Dublin have continued the frightening consistency that has been their hallmark under Gavin, and made light of theories that the lack of a competitive challenge would see them come a-cropper when they met another of the Big Four. With Gooch, Galvin and Walsh back in the fold, Fitzmaurice had a stronger, more experienced panel than the one which won Sam 12 months ago. Barring that late scare against Cork, their All-Ireland defence has never looked to be in any serious jeopardy.

Steve O’Rourke
It has to be Fitzmaurice for me. Jim Gavin has the finest group of footballers in the country at his disposal, the very least Dublin should achieve is a final spot. The Kerry manager, however, had to reinvigorate a bunch of players who probably overachieved last season and — as the first winners to get back to final following victory the previous year since 2008 — that’s no mean feat.

Sinead O’Carroll
I don’t think you can separate them. Their performances this year (albeit in a pretty poor season) have been excellent. We all know now how hard it is to get back-to-back titles but Fitzmaurice’s side seem ready for it. Gavin has kept a bunch of men together, performing at a previously unheard of level of professionalism for three seasons.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Paul Hosford
Neither has worked a miracle. They both manage the two best teams in the country. The final is where they should be.

Neil Treacy
I think Jim Gavin. He’s obviously got the best panel in the country, but he’s rotated things well. Fitzmaurice got his substitutions wrong badly in the Munster final, and had they been defeated by Cork that day a lot more would have been made of it. That tips the scale in favour of Gavin, for me.

Paul Fennessy
Eamonn Fitzmaurice just about. Dublin have the greater depth of talent to choose from so managing Kerry is slightly more difficult, plus it’s rare enough for All-Ireland winners not to suffer a bit of a hangover the following year. Both deserve major credit for getting their respective teams to this point, however.

2. Who’s the key player for Kerry?

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fintan O’Toole
David Moran. The man in pole position to win Footballer of the Year and if he establishes a middle third platform, it will put Dublin on the backfoot and give Kerry a springboard for success.

Niall Kelly
David Moran wasn’t at his best against Tyrone but he has been one of the outstanding footballers in the country this summer nonetheless. If Kerry push up on Dublin’s kickouts and force Stephen Cluxton to kick long, Moran’s influence will be decisive in determining the midfield battle.

Steve O’Rourke
Brendan Kealy. You have to go back to the All-Ireland quarter-final of 2013 for the last time Dublin won a Championship game scoring less than two goals. Since then they’ve scored two or more on 12 occasions, winning 11 and drawing one. The one time they didn’t — against Donegal in last year’s semi-final — they lost so the Kilcummin shot-stopper will be crucial.

Brendan Kealy saves a goal bound shot Kealy: Kerry's keeper made some timely stops against Tyrone. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Sinead O’Carroll
The full-forward, be it Geaney or Donaghy when he inevitably comes on. I’ll probably mention this a lot over the next few paragraphs but goals win games.

Paul Hosford
James O’Donoghue. Kerry aren’t going to stop Dublin scoring entirely. So they’re going to have to score themselves. And O’Donoghue will be key to that.

Neil Treacy
Stephen O’Brien’s been excellent for Kerry in their last two games. He kicked points for fun in the first half against Kildare, giving them their big cushion, and found the net during the second half when the floodgate opened. Kept up his form against Tyrone in the semi-final, and deserves to keep his place in the side for Sunday.

Paul Fennessy
Paul Geaney. Dropping Kieran Donaghy was a big call and will inevitably be questioned if they lose, so Geaney will need a strong performance to silence the doubters.

3. Who’s the key player for Dublin?

Fintan O’Toole
Their centre-back. Whether it’s Cian O’Sullivan, John Small or perhaps even Philly McMahon, whoever is in that central defensive berth has a key role in ensuring Dublin’s inside rearguard is not threatened.

Niall Kelly
Whoever lines out in the number six jersey. Cian O’Sullivan’s role as policeman has been vital in Dublin’s efforts to shore up their defence. If he’s not fit enough to start, there will be huge responsibility on whoever replaces him at centre-back.

Will O'Sullivan start? Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Steve O’Rourke
Bernard Brogan. 6-19 in the championship so far. If he finds the back of the net on Sunday there’s every chance Dublin will be lifting Sam.

Sinead O’Carroll
Bernard Brogan. Dublin, for all the talk of strength in depth and an amazing bench, still need him to be on form to win the big ties.

Paul Hosford
Bernard Brogan. He’s still their fulcrum and when he plays, the Dubs play.

Neil Treacy
Bernard Brogan’s been blitzing teams for the summer, but the man who’s picked up the scores that mattered most has been Kevin McManamon.

Paul Fennessy
Bernard Brogan — when he’s fully fit and on song, Dublin look unstoppable at times.

Bernard Brogan celebrates scoring a point despite the efforts of Colm Boyle Brogan has scored a remarkable 6-19 from play this summer. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. A key factor next Sunday will be…

Fintan O’Toole
Dublin’s ability to score goals. Last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was the only time during Jim Gavin’s reign in charge that Dublin did not raise a green flag in a championship game. We all know what happened that day against Donegal.

Niall Kelly
The benches. Both panels are laden with strength in depth, and in a game that’s likely to go down to the wire, the subs’ contribution will have a massive impact. Step forward, Kevin McManamon…

Steve O’Rourke
The referee. We saw from the semi-final that some games can be virtually unmanageable if the man in the middle starts to let things slide. Hopefully David Coldrick remembers exactly what the black card was introduced for.

David Coldrick Coldrick: the man in the middle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sinead O’Carroll
Goals. Goals win games. I didn’t doubt for a second that Dublin would produce the magic when they went behind against Mayo in the replay. The snag for them is, can Kerry give as good as they get?

Paul Hosford
The subs. Dublin have an insanely strong bench to choose from. Kerry’s will include a number of multiple All Ireland winners. Whoever utilises theirs better will win.

Neil Treacy
Kickouts. Mayo sat back at let Cluxton do what he liked last time out, and the only time he went long, Mayo won it. If Kerry harass the Dublin corner backs at kickout time, he may have to go long, and that’s exactly what Kerry want.

Paul Fennessy
The bench. In recent times, Kevin McManamon in particular has shown how big an impact subs can have in deciding key games.

5. What’s been your favourite football moment this summer?

Fintan O’Toole
Westmeath’s exhilirating and madcap Leinster comeback against Meath was extraordinary. Trailing by nine points with 19 minutes left, Westmeath eventually won by four to claim a first ever senior championship win over the Royals.

Niall Kelly
For drama, it’s hard to beat Fionn Fitzgerald’s smash-and-grab equaliser in the Munster final. For brazen novelty, Sean Quigley shoving Stephen Cluxton into his own net has to get a mention as well.

Steve O’Rourke
As a Kildare-man surrounded by Cork folk in The42 towers… it has to be the Qualifiers win in Semple Stadium… the only highlight of an otherwise dreadful year.

Sinead O’Carroll
From a parochial point of view, seeing Kildare finally take on of the ‘Top Six’ in Semple Stadium was probably the moment. But obviously that led to the worst 70 minutes of the year seeing Kerry swoop in for seven goals in Croke Park – plus the kicker of the Gooch fisting a gilt-edged chance over the bar.

The comeback from Mayo in the drawn game against Dublin is also the exhilarating stuff that neutral fans live on. It’s a pity they just didn’t play that running game a little bit more often during those 70 minutes.

Jason Ryan Jason Ryan celebrates Kildare's win over Cork. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Paul Hosford
As a Cork man: pass.

Neil Treacy
Westmeath’s comeback in Croke Park was one of the most memorable games I’ve seen live in a long time. The way the second half slowly built along as they chipped away at Meath, you could slowly sense something big was coming. The noise when John Heslin scored the late goal to seal it was absolutely deafening.

Paul Fennessy
The first Dublin-Mayo game and the second-half especially was impossible to take your eyes off.

6. Who will lift Sam Maguire next Sunday and why?

Fintan O’Toole
Kerry. They suffered their scare in Killarney but have cranked up the gears since then, they have enough talent in reserve to influence this game, enough attacking options to break down Dublin and the best midfield pairing in the country.

Niall Kelly
The Dubs. With the exception of some tactical naivety against Donegal, and a five-minute blip against Mayo (when, remember, they were without both Bastick and Macauley), they have been the outstanding team in the country for three straight seasons. Their forward firepower will see them over the line.

Steve O’Rourke
Dublin, because if I tip them Kerry are sure to win it.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sinead O’Carroll
Kerry. For all their talent, watching Dublin when they’re not firing on all cylinders is uncomfortable because they become flat and leaderless. And they very rarely produce for a full 70 minutes. I think Kerry, with all their experience and host of strong characters will capitalise on that.

Paul Hosford
Nobody. I’m going for the draw.

Neil Treacy
With a father from Kerry, there’s no way I’m getting let back into the house if I don’t vote for the Kingdom.

Paul Fennessy
Dublin have the most talented collection of players and you’d expect them to be in peak form this weekend, so I can’t see Kerry stopping them.

He does kind of see it like a chess table’ – Jack and Éamonn guiding Kerry football

Dublin boss Jim Gavin has named his team for Sunday’s All-Ireland showdown

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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