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Untested Kerry head into Dublin clash with more questions than answers

Killian Young discusses Kerry’s route to the final, Colm Cooper’s battle with injury and Kieran Donaghy’s role against Dublin.

IN AN INTER-county season on the go since January, how 2016 will be remembered in the Kingdom is heavily depend on the outcome of events in Croke Park on Sunday.

It’s Kerry’s biggest game of the season and it provides the chance to avenge last year’s All-Ireland final defeat. Kerry-Dublin games need no introduction, but a quick look at recent results indicates the reigning champions have enjoyed supremacy in this fixture of late.

Killian Young Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This current crop of Dubs have won all three championship meetings between these sides since 2011. Those wins came in an All-Ireland final (2011), semi-final (2013) and final again (2015). Each year, the Dubs beat Kerry en route to lifting the All-Ireland title.

Before 2011, you had to back back as far as 1977 for the last Dublin win over Kerry. How the times have changed.

Killian Young’s championship record against Dublin stands at 2-2. He played at wing-back in Kingdom wins back in 2007 and 2009, before suffering the pain of All-Ireland final defeats in 2011 and 2015. He missed out on the 2013 semi-final due to a dislocated ankle and a fractured shin bone.

He also played in April’s Division 1 league final between the counties. Dublin reasserted their dominance by dishing out an 11-point hiding to their old rivals. Since that game, Kerry have had to overcome just Clare (twice) and Tipperary to make it to the last four of the championship.

They’ve had to endure a four-week gap since the latest win over Clare. Is there a danger the Kingdom are under-cooked heading into a season-defining game?

“There is a lot of talk out there at the moment in relation to the structure of the competition,” says Young. ”Some people are saying ‘Kerry got the easy route in,’ but that’s stuff that we can’t control.

“We prepared like we would for any team. You have to be professional and cold. I suppose that’s why we never really struggled against those teams where if you weren’t 100 per cent right on the day or mentally at it you could be really caught out.

“We got through it. We have a couple of young fellas, we have eight Under-21s after coming through, there is a real freshness in the squad. There is a great bite in training.”

Eamon Fitzmaurice faces several selection headaches in a team that is far from settled. Colm Cooper is hopeful of making a return from damaged shoulder ligaments, while James O’Donoghue is searching for his best form having spent the spring on the sidelines.

“[Cooper] is going well,” says Young. “Just about a week out unfortunately to make the quarter-finals. His ball handling is perfect and things like that. Just a bit of contact, it was too soon for him.

“It will be good to see him back on the field again. It’s great to see the likes of James back as well. You always want to see everybody with a clean bill of health.

“It’s been a long slog throughout the winter trying to get healthy. I’ve done it myself. It’s a lonely place so it was good to see him back too.”

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Kieran Donaghy and James O’Donoghue tackle Colm Cooper Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Given the paucity of a challenge Kerry have faced so far, there haven’t been any games where Fitzmaurice has been required to show his hand.

Without any serious games to discuss, much of the chatter in Kerry has surrounded selection issues – with rumours flying down south that Bryan Sheehan will start between the posts.

Kieran Donaghy’s midfield role is also up for discussion, although he’ll likely spend a significant time at 14. Young sees no reason why the Austin Stacks veteran can’t hang in the middle third against the athleticism of Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh MacAuley.

“He is having a great year [at midfield]. He’s really coming into his own, having a super year and that. I can’t see why he can’t continue there.

“There is quality there [Kerry's midfield] and they’re versatile players anyway. They have the ability to play in the forwards. I think it is a great thing.

“The competition you have inside in training, you can imagine. That’s the quality you have in midfield competing at that level. There is no harm in that.

“It is helping us as a team, as a squad; you are getting quality out of every single session that we do. I don’t see any harm in it.”

As good as ‘Star’ has been in midfield this year, a Donaghy-Paul Geaney full-forward line might be the way forward for Fitzmaurice.

Kerry launched a few tasty crossfield balls into Geaney against Clare, but Young assures us that was just some impromptu attacking play, and not a dish they’re serving up for the Dubs.

“No, we wouldn’t have spoken about it at all, looking ahead [to Dublin]. To be truthful about it, it was just instinct, one of those things, just playing off the cuff.

“You don’t want anything too structured in what you do, you want to trust it to the forwards because they have the ability to make things happen.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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