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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 24 October, 2019

5 talking points as Jim Gavin and Eamon Fitzmaurice lock horns once again

A hugely tactical battle awaits in the third championship meeting between these managers.

1. Tactical posers for Eamonn Fitzmaurice

NOBODY’S QUITE SURE how the Kingdom will line up. Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side have breezed through their easiest route to the All-Ireland semi-finals in years, which makes the task at hand all the more difficult.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin shake hands after the game Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Dublin’s perceived Achilles heel is in their full-back line, so you’d expect Kieran Donaghy and Paul Geaney to spend a significant amount of time together inside. If that’s the case, then how will Fitzmaurice use his two most technically gifted forwards – Colm Cooper and James O’Donoghue?

Fitzmaurice may resist the urge to jettison Bryan Sheehan into his starting XV, but if David Moran fails to find the range with a few early frees his hand might be forced in the first-half.

Colm Cooper could be held in reserve until the second-half, while Paul Murphy might face a switch to the half-back line. There has also been talk that Mark Griffin will move to the number 6 position with Killian Young dropping to the edge of the square.

James McCarthy and Peter Crowley Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. Will James McCarthy play?

Dublin’s rolls-royce has been named to start at wing-back by Jim Gavin but, as is always the case with Gavin, we won’t know his team for certain until the ball is about to be thrown in.

McCarthy has been absent since he picked an injury to his knee at training in mid-July, and his return would release Ciaran Kilkenny back up to his natural slot on the half-forward line.

McCarthy’s ball-carrying ability from defence helps Dublin tick, while his size means Dublin could use him in the full-back line to counter a potential twin-towers approach from Kerry.

Kieran Donaghy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Have Kerry got the legs to stick with Dublin?

Kerry’s biggest headache comes at centrefield, where Dublin’s powerful duo of Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley are as good in the air as they are on the turf.

Dublin’s running game blew Kerry away by 11 points in the Division 1 league final, forcing Fitzmaurice to replace Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé with rookies Tadhg Morley and Brian O Beaglaoich.

If Kerry do stick with Dublin for 55 minutes, Gavin will call upon his artillery of weapons from the bench. The arrival of Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O’Gara and Paul Mannion onto the field is the last thing Kerry’s tired legs would want to see.

4. How do Kerry counter Cian O’Sullivan?

Alongside Kilkenny, Cian O’Sullivan has been Dublin’s most important player in the championship so far.

It’s clear that finding a way around the Kilmacud Crokes defender must be central to Kerry winning this game. In order to draw O’Sullivan out from the sweeping duties he performs in front of the full-back line, Kerry need to place a creative player at 11 and build a running game around him.

James O’Donoghue would be the ideal fit for this role as O’Sullivan could ill afford to leave him free on the 40.

Cian O'Sullivan tackles Paul Murphy Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Dublin’s patient attacking play

The departures of Jack McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll, plus the injury to McCarthy placed most of the focus on Dublin’s defence.

But Gavin’s philosophy is designed around attacking football. As McCaffrey said in July, “[Jim Gavin] probably spends more time with the forwards in terms of his coaching than with the backs.”

Dublin play a very patient, attacking style and if the opposition set-up defensively, as Kerry will, they don’t give away cheap ball by kicking it into a spare defender.

The All-Ireland champions have the best running game in the country, with the most dynamic half-forward line we’ve ever witnessed in Diarmuid Connolly, Kilkenny and Paul Flynn.

Dublin recycle the ball out of dead alleys and move it in pods of three until someone spots a gap. The runner will have a support runner either side of him and then an inside forward spins around on the loop to kick a score.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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