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Dublin: 10°C Friday 16 April 2021

6 selection posers facing Dublin and Kerry ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland final

Rival bosses Jim Gavin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice have plenty to ponder.

1. Who will play at centre back for Dublin?

Cian O'Sullivan fends off the challenge of Mayo's Aidan O'Shea. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

With Cian O’Sullivan still a major injury doubt for Dublin, manager Jim Gavin will be thinking hard about his centre back position.

If O’Sullivan is fit, he plays there but there is some speculation that Jonny Cooper could be deployed in the pivotal role.

That would free up a defensive slot elsewhere and Mick Fitzsimons would appear to be the leading contender to fill the void, after he replaced Rory O’Carroll as a blood sub in the drawn Mayo game.

John Small looked like the ideal contender to replace Ger Brennan at number six earlier in the year but after a bright start to the campaign, the Ballymun Kickhams man hasn’t kicked on.

If there’s any doubt at about O’Sullivan’s fitness, Gavin will surely be reluctant to start him in what promises to be a high-octane fixture.

2. Does Kerry captain Kieran Donaghy start?

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Donaghy was whipped off in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Tyrone, with his replacement Paul Geaney making a big impact.

Leaving out the team captain would be a massive call but manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice hasn’t been afraid to shirk big decisions since taking over.

Almost everything that Fitzmaurice has touched during his reign has turned to gold and that has earned him the right to leave big names on the bench, without fear of reproach from Kerry’s demanding public.

Having Donaghy on the edge of the square provides an obvious outlet for the long ball if Kerry are struggling to penetrate Dublin with lines of running.

The Sky Blues coped well with the aerial threat of Aidan O’Shea over the course of two games but the ball coming the Mayo bulwark’s way was of poor quality.

If Donaghy is selected, he can expect quality delivery but if it doesn’t work out, Fitzmaurice has quality replacements on the bench.

And if Donaghy doesn’t start, he’s one hell of an impact sub to call upon and Geaney did play well on All-Ireland final day last year, scoring an early goal against Donegal before Donaghy himself netted the crucial second.

3. Is Kevin McManamon set for a super sub role again?

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

McManamon is the man with the Midas goal touch off the bench.

He came on in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry and hauled the Sky Blues back into contention with that second half goal, before the Metropolitans kicked for home.

And when the sides met two years ago at the semi-final stage, McManamon bulged the Kerry net again.

The St Jude’s man scored goals in each of the Mayo games and his strike in the replay was brilliantly-taken.

The problem for McManamon is that he’s so renowned now as an impact sub that this strength is his biggest enemy in his quest to nail down a regular starting spot.

He’s the ideal player to come on and expose tiring legs in the opposition defence, as he’s demonstrated so often in the past.

4. Is there a place for Michael Darragh MacAuley in Dublin’s midfield?

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

On the basis of the form MacAuley showed in the closing stages of the semi-final replay against Mayo, he’ll expect to start Sunday’s final.

The 2013 Footballer of the Year looked like a man on a mission against the Connacht champions and he was involved in 16 plays after being introduced.

To regain his starting place, MacAuley will have to force his way past either Brian Fenton or Denis Bastick for a slot in Dublin’s engine-room.

But MacAuley’s ball-winning ability would prove crucial against Kerry duo Anthony Maher and David Moran, who have both been in excellent form.

With Kerry also using hard-working Stephen O’Brien, Johnny Buckley and Donnchadh Walsh around the middle third, this area of the field will be a real battle zone.

And Gavin may well plump for a proven performer in MacAuley, who has more often than not produced on the big days.

5. Does Philly McMahon play a roving role again?

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

McMahon was exceptional in Dublin’s victory over Mayo, finding pockets of space in which to wreak havoc.

McMahon, villain of the piece in many people’s eyes from the drawn game, let his football do the talking at the second time of asking.

Nobody tracked his run for the goal he bundled home from Bernard Brogan’s pass and McMahon surged forward for two points also.

The Ballymun Kickhams player is blessed with a savage engine and can get up and down the pitch to good effect.

Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice will urge his players to keep a close eye on McMahon and the Kingdom may opt to mark him zonally rather than deploying a man-marker.

Asking a player to track McMahon all over the field may be seen as conceding a psychological advantage but if there’s one man suited to it, and who could put the Dublin player on the back foot himself, perhaps it’s Stephen O’Brien.

Fitzmaurice will want McMahon preoccupied with defensive duties rather than affording him the licence to bomb forward time and time again.

6. Use of the bench

Kerry's Darran O'Sullivan Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Kerry’s strength in depth has been talked about on numerous occasions throughout the summer.

Remember Darran O’Sullivan’s impact against Kildare, and Paul Geaney’s influence when he came on in the Tyrone game?

Kerry boss Fitzmaurice has game changers on the line in the form of Geaney or Donaghy, depending on who sits it out from the start, Tommy Walsh, O’Sullivan, Bryan Sheehan and Paul Galvin.

Aidan O'Mahony and Paul Murphy celebrates at the final whistle Bryan Sheehan and Killian Young celebrate victory over Tyrone. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Sheehan lost his place for the Tyrone match but his replacement, Johnny Buckley, more than justified his inclusion with a display that earned him the RTÉ man of the match award.

Once again, Fitzmaurice got a big call right but Dublin supremo Gavin has quality personnel to call upon also.

Depending on his starting line-up, Gavin could have proven game changer Kevin McManamon in reserve along with Denis Bastick or Michael Darragh MacAuley, and veteran Alan Brogan.

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