Kerry's Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh with Leah Caffrey of Dublin. Ben Brady/INPHO

Five key questions ahead of Dublin and Kerry's novel All-Ireland final showdown

Who will lift the Brendan Martin Cup tomorrow?

1. How are the sides shaping up?

Kerry and Dublin have both enjoyed relatively smooth paths to their first-ever All-Ireland ladies football final meeting.

They’ve named unchanged teams from their semi-final wins over Mayo and Cork respectively, where strong first halves ultimately saw them both through to the LGFA’s 50th senior showdown.

Kingdom forward Hannah O’Donoghue is the main injury concern after her withdrawal against the Green and Red, while Declan Quill and Darragh Long’s side have coped without captain Siofra O’Shea after her recent cruciate ligament knee setback. 

Dublin, meanwhile, haven’t hit many major snags as Mick Bohan’s new-look side eye a return to the top table. Sinead Aherne is held in reserve once more, with their bench power continually crucial. They appear to be peaking after emphatic wins over Cork (12 points) and Donegal (15 points), the latter having sent them packing last year.

They pair have unquestionably been the country’s in-form teams in 2023 and have both added to their trophy cabinets. Kerry toasted league success on their return to Division 1, while the Dubs reigned supreme in Leinster once more.

But it’s all about the Brendan Martin Cup — and the third meeting of the sides this season. Kerry triumphed on the previous two occasions: 3-15 to 1-10 in a Tralee league clash in February, and 2-8 to 1-9 in their championship opener at Parnell Park.

Will it be three wins in-a-row for the Kingdom, or third time lucky for the Dubs?

2. What do the history books tell us?

It’s hard to believe that this is their first All-Ireland final showdown, both sides embracing ladies football heavyweight status at differing times.

It’s been 30 years since Kerry climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Brendan Martin. Their all-conquering aristocrats last won in 1993, the wait for a record 12th title an agonisingly long one.

The Kingdom are currently joint with Cork on the roll of honours list, the great Rebels team having won 11 of 12 All-Ireland titles on offer from 2005 to 2016. Dublin dominated in championship fare thereafter, turning three decider defeats into four wins on the spin until Meath stunned Bohan’s charges in 2021.

sinead-aherne-lifts-the-trophy Dublin last won in 2020. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Similar to the Royals, Kerry rose from the ashes to reach the showpiece last year. They fell short, but have made a swift return after dethroning the back-to-back champions at the quarter-final stage.

While the first of Dublin’s five All-Ireland crowns arrived in 2010, the Kingdom’s maiden win came in 1976. (Quick note: Captains from the previous 49 All-Ireland senior finals will be paraded in front of the Croke Park attendance at half time.)

3. What are the match-ups and battles to look out for?

This could be a real classic, with both sides hell-bent on attacking. With Meath’s more defensive tactics mirrored across the country of late, Kerry and Dublin play a purer brand of football. Their running games are key, and both enjoy going direct.

The Kingdom have found great joy in their kick-out press of late, and it will be interesting to see how Dublin’s talented young shot-stopper Abby Shiels counters that. Kerry ‘keeper Ciara Butler struggled from her restarts in last year’s decider, but will have learned a lot from that experience.

The midfield battle of Lorraine Scanlon and Louise Galvin versus Jennifer Dunne and Eilish O’Dowd will be hugely important. AFLW-bound Dunne has starred for the Dubs, while the addition of Leitrim native O’Down has been a major boost. Similarly, Scanlon and Galvin are big ball winners and engines for the Kingdom, their basketball (and rugby, for the latter) experience shining through.

The inside defender/forward match-ups should be quality: Leah Caffrey will likely have her hands full with Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, while Kayleigh Cronin may be tasked with shackling Carla Rowe or Hannah Tyrrell. There are plenty of other man-marking options on offer, but minding the house will be key. Goals could be decisive here.

4. Which scoring star will shine brightest?

Ní Mhuircheartaigh is the name that springs to mind immediately, the Kingdom taliswoman one of the best forwards to ever play the game.

kerry-players-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Kerry celebrate their semi-final win. Lorraine O’Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O’Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

She’s in a rich vein of form, scoring 1-10 in the semi-final against Mayo and winning the Croke Park/LGFA Player of the Month for July. The Corca Dhuibhne stalwart is senior championship top-scorer with 2-24 thus far.

Dublin skipper Rowe is next in line with 4-13, the Naul star similarly devastating from dead ball and open play. She’s a real leader for the Dubs and her experience has been pivotal through this slight period of transition. Tyrrell is another huge threat in attack, with 1-13 to her name through the All-Ireland series, while Kate Sullivan and Orlagh Nolan have also stepped up before the posts. 

O’Donoghue, Niamh Carmody, Niamh Ní Chonchúir and Danielle O’Leary are among Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s supporting cast and they’ll need to shine if Kerry are to do the business.

5. How will the intermediate and junior deciders go?

Down and Limerick open proceedings at HQ in the junior final. The Mourne county will be targetting an immediate return to the intermediate ranks after relegation last year. This is their second junior final, having won in 2002.

Limerick, meanwhile, are back in the decider after no shortage of semi-final heartbreak. They’ll be aiming to get their hands on the West County Hotel Cup for the first time since 2018 in their fourth final appearance.

Clare and Kildare go head-to-head in the intermediate showpiece, the sides facing off for the third time in 2023. The Lilywhites narrowly won on both other occasions, including after extra time in the Division 3 final.

Screen Shot 2023-08-11 at 16.30.31 Captain's call: Grace Clifford, Caoimhe Harvey, Carla Rowe, Síofra O'Shea, Meghan and Róisin Ambrose. SPORTSFILE. SPORTSFILE.

This is both side’s first All-Ireland intermediate final since 2016, when the Lilies also came out on top by the minimum. It’s Clare’s fourth inter final, having won in 2009 and lost in ’08 and ’16, while Kildare turned a ’15 defeat into victory the following season.

Another interesting battle in the lower divisions should be the 2023 ZuCar Golden Boot race, with Natasha Ferris (Down) and Fidelma Marrinan (Clare) going right down to the wire.

Over 50,000 fans are expected to attend tomorrow’s triple-header. The record attendance is 56,114, set as Dublin overcame Galway in 2019.

Sunday 13 August - 2023 TG4 All-Ireland Final day, Croke Park

All games live on TG4

  • 11.45am – Down v Limerick (Junior)
  • 1.45pm – Clare v Kildare (Intermediate)
  • 4pm – Dublin v Kerry (Senior)
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