5 questions ahead of tonight's showdown between Kerry and Dublin

Can Kerry keep Dublin down, how will Dessie Farrell’s team respond to the Armagh defeat and what changes will Jack O’Connor make?

1. Can Kerry put their foot on Dublin’s throat?

FOLLOWING CONSECUTIVE DEFEATS at Croke Park to Mayo and Armagh, the aura around this Dublin team is gone.

adrian-spillane-and-paul-geaney-tackle-john-small League games between Kerry and Dublin haven't disappointed in recent years. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

They’re in a vulnerable position now and to start off the league with a pair of losses would put Dessie Farrell under pressure at an early stage of the season. 

Kerry underperformed last week in Kildare, but to a lesser extent, and will recognise this as a big opportunity to twist the knife in Dublin. Jack O’Connor’s side will be expected to lay down a marker on home turf.

If their forwards are afforded the space sort of space Rian O’Neill and co. enjoyed in Croke Park, then Kerry could go to town on the Dubs. 

2. How will Dublin respond to last week?

Dessie Farrell noted the Sky Blues were in a period of ‘transition’ after they stuttered through Leinster last year and he used the phrase again in the aftermath of the Armagh defeat a week ago.

Transition or not, the players will be hurting after the public humiliation they suffered on the opening night. They’re a proud bunch and all the talk around their demise would have been hard to avoid over the past seven days. 

There’s no short-term fix for many of the issues that caused their alarming drop in performance levels. However, increasing their tackle count, energy levels and moving the ball forward with more intent are obvious places to start.

Brian Howard isn’t the answer at centre-back, a role John Small is far more suited to. They need to speed up the possession game and hit the full-forward line earlier. Lethargy and a lack of creativity are not things we normally associate with this Dublin team.

Expect them to come out all guns blazing for the opening 20 minutes tonight. 

brian-fenton Dublin’s Brian Fenton will be out to right the wrongs from last weekend. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. What changes will Jack O’Connor make?

The Kingdom were far from convincing in Newbridge last Sunday. The use of Sean O’Shea at midfield raised question marks and he’s likely to be used closer to goal tonight.

Jack O’Connor welcomes back Na Gaeil’s Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Barry, plus Austin Stacks man Joe O’Connor – the new Kerry captain – into the panel to bolster his options at centre-field. 

There have been suggestions O’Connor should hold David Clifford in reserve given his midweek Sigerson Cup commitments (and the injury which ended Tommy Conroy’s season on Tuesday night). It would be a big surprise if Clifford didn’t start given their opponents. To properly utilise their main man, Kerry need to get the ball inside quicker to the Fossa star.

Half-forwards Micheal Burns and Dara Moynihan were criticised after their performances against Kildare. Paudie Clifford might find himself moved to the flank, with O’Shea at 11, and either Burns or Moynihan retained on the other wing. 

Could Tony Brosnan be pitched into the starting team ahead of Killian Spillane? Lots of decisions for O’Connor to make. 

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jack-oconnor Kerry manager Jack O’Connor with his team before the Kildare clash. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Have we another Tralee cracker on the cards?

This game has been sold out since Monday afternoon with a 12,000 capacity crowd expected in Austin Stack Park. Recent meetings between these great rivals under lights in Tralee have tended to be spiked affairs.

Jim Gavin famous stepped around a brawl shortly after their entertaining draw in 2017 which had plenty of flash points. Kerry managed to beat Dublin at home by two points in 2015 and a point in 2019.

Last year’s meeting in Thurles was a thriller as Kerry fought back from a seven-point deficit to take a share of the spoils in a game that finished 1-18 to 4-9. Dublin-Kerry rarely disappoints. Another cracker in front with a rousing crowd lies in store.

While they sit first and second in the All-Ireland betting, both teams have plenty question marks hanging over them after the opening weekend. 

david-clifford David Clifford scored a late penalty to rescue a draw in the 2021 league tie. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. What sort of team will Dublin put out?

Injuries to Cormac Costello and Aaron Byrne in the opening half last weekend further depleted Dublin’s attacking options. Of the players that missed the first round, only James McCarthy looks set to return to the team. 

Dublin’s bench had an inexperienced look to it, particularly in the forward division. If Costello and Byrne miss out, Dean Rock and Lorcan O’Dell could come in from the start. 

Farrell may employ Howard at centre-forward and push Ciaran Kilkenny into 14 to give them more of a threat on the edge of the square. Could former U20 star Ciaran Archer, fitness permitting, make an appearance at some stage? 

  • Kerry v Dublin, Austin Stack Park, 7pm — RTÉ 2

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Kevin O'Brien

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