Kerry's need, the Cluxton effect and more National Football League final talking points

We’re in for a fascinating final between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday.

1. Kerry’s need is greater

Colm Cooper dejected Colm Cooper is dejected after last year's All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Surely the Kingdom need to win this one more than Dublin?

The Sky Blues have the Indian sign over Kerry in recent big clashes at Croke Park, winning All-Ireland finals in 2011 and 2015, as well as a 2013 semi-final.

Kerry did beat Dublin in last year’s league clash in Killarney but Dublin turned the tables on them at Croke Park in January.

Put simply, a Kerry win would mean so much to them.

It would flood manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his players with the belief that they could do it again if the counties meet again in the summer, while also denying the Dubs a fourth successive league crown.

Kerry aren’t used to consistent defeats against any opponent but Dublin have had their measure in recent times – and that’s something that won’t sit well with the Munster champions.

2. Combatting Cluxton

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This is one of the big problems for Kerry.

Ideally, they’ll want the Dublin goalkeeper to kick the ball into midfield and take their chances on Kieran Donaghy and David Moran ruling the skies but that would mean targeting the Cluxton kick-out and pressing the Dubs high up the pitch.

That strategy would go against what we saw from Kerry in their comprehensive semi-final victory over Roscommon.

They’re now capable of defending and attacking capably as a unit and it was noticeable that when Kerry lost possession, they flooded men back as quickly as possible in an attempt to nullify the Roscommon threat and turn over the ball.

The Rossies simply couldn’t find a way through and were caught time and time again with lightning Kerry breaks, as Fitzmaurice’s charges bared their teeth.

Fitzmaurice may opt to go after the Cluxton kick-out early doors and see how that pans out but he’s also capable of going to plan B, which could be to allow Dublin primary possession in deep areas and then attempt to stop them moving through the lines.

3. An age-old rivalry renewed

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Last November, RTÉ aired a brilliant documentary as All-Ireland Day went behind the scenes for Dublin and Kerry’s clash last September.

With referee David Coldrick mic’d up, we discovered just how intense the rivalry between Dublin and Kerry really is, with plenty of verbals exchanged all over the field.

The hits went in hard and often and there was also that infamous flashpoint moment in the second half when Philly McMahon clashed with Kerry skipper Kieran Donaghy.

Dublin and Kerry went at it hot and heavy for years, particularly in the 1970s, but in recent times there have been signs that we could be set for more regular championship clashes between the counties.

They’ve met three times in five championship seasons and if they continue to show the form that’s taken them to the league final, we can expect another titanic summer collision.

4. Can Dublin finally be beaten?

Stephen Cluxton lifts the Division one trophy Stephen Cluxton lifts the Allianz League trophy after victory over Cork last year. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Dublin are reigning league and All-Ireland champions and if they win tomorrow, they’ll have won the league for a fourth successive year, while also continuing an unbeaten run that currently stands at 21 matches.

If they do clinch the silverware again, they’ll become the first county since Kerry in the early 1970s to achieve that four-in-a-row feat.

The Kingdom claimed the title in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974, before Meath took over as champions.

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Dublin’s last three wins matched Cork’s exploits from 2010-2012 and league form is generally a better gauge of championship potential than not, as four of the last seven Division 1 winners have gone on to lift the Sam Maguire Cup.

Kerry did the double in 2009, Cork a year later, while Dublin themselves won both competitions in 2013 and again last year.

5. What kind of game will it be?

Patrick McBrearty is tackled by Paul Mannion Dublin put the shackles on a dangerous Donegal attack twice this year. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

On all known form, this should be an open affair with plenty of scores but the fear is that the respective managers won’t want to give too much away ahead of the summer.

Dublin have scored 9-109 in their eight games to date, with Kerry racking up a total of 8-124.

Taking those figures and averaging them out per game, Dublin are hitting 17 points a match and Kerry 18.5.

On average, Kerry are leaking 13 points per match but while doubts remain about their defence, they restricted relegated Down to just six points, for example, and haven’t conceded more in any one game than the 2-14 that Dublin put past them in January.

Dublin are miserly at the back, conceding an average of 12 points per game, but Kerry should provide them with their stiffest defensive test of the season.

Privately, Dublin boss Jim Gavin knows that his forwards are capable of producing the goods when the chips are down, but he’ll want to know a bit more about his rearguard and won’t be too concerned if his defenders are provided with a stern examination.

Looking at Dublin’s results so far, though, conceding just 0-7 per game against Mayo and Donegal in the group stages was impressive stuff and when they met Donegal again, the Ulster men could manage just 0-13 at Croke Park in the semi-final.

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