Tactics board: 6 ways the Dubs can beat Kerry on Sunday

Ger McCarthy highlights the major dos and don’ts for Dublin ahead of the big dance on Sunday.

Will Gilroy get the tactics right on Sunday?
Will Gilroy get the tactics right on Sunday?
Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

SUNDAY’S ALL-IRELAND final brings together two age-old rivals in Kerry and Dublin to battle it out for the Sam Maguire Cup. Most neutrals and bookies have Kerry as odds-on favourites following the Kingdom’s impressive march to the final.

The sentimentalists among the GAA fraternity certainly would not mind seeing Pat Gilroy’s Dublin win an All-Ireland but the odds are heavily stacked against the Leinster champions causing an upset.

So just how can Dublin go about beating Kerry?

1. Say ‘Hello’

Tadhg Kennelly’s premeditated decision to charge in and hit Cork player Nick Murphy square on the jaw right at the beginning of a recent All-Ireland final had the desired effect. The Rebels’ midfielder was taken out of the game and Kerry immediately laid down a marker to their opponents that they would not be pushed around that afternoon.

Dublin need to attack Kerry in a similar fashion before a ball is kicked on Sunday and make sure every Kingdom player knows that they are in for a tough afternoon. Kerry arrive into the Dubs’ back yard as favourites for the title and it is up to the Leinster side to do everything possible (within the rules of the game of course) to knock them out of their stride as quickly as possible and set the tone for what should be a bruising encounter.

2. Cut off the supply

Kerry’s ability to win ‘dirty ball’ around the middle of the park has been the cornerstone of their success this year. An inter-changing forward line of Colm Cooper, Darran O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy has thrived on the excellent (and regular) supply of ball from the likes of Declan O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan.

If Dublin are to have any chance of winning, they will need to crowd the midfield area and win a higher percentage of breaking balls to prevent the Kingdom midfield engine from going into overdrive.

3. Mental Attitude

Bernard Brogan admitted in a recent Irish Independent article that Dublin’s approach to the 2009 All-Ireland Football quarter-final hammering by Kerry was all wrong and this it is essential to have the right mental attitude for Sunday’s showdown.

“When we played Kerry in 2009, we weren’t mentally prepared and didn’t get out of the blocks that day,” wrote Brogan on the Vodafone Dub Hub blog on

But I believe we are 10 times better now and are focused on doing what we do well, which is working as hard as we can for as long as we can and then letting someone else come in and finish the job.

4. Pressure? What pressure?

For my money, Dublin’s trump card during the 2011 campaign has not been any specific player but rather the brilliant guidance and wise words of manager Pat Gilroy. In previous years the likes of ‘Pillar’ Caffrey and other Dublin managers allowed the Dublin hype machine to go into overdrive coming up to various All-Ireland quarter- and semi-finals.

Gilroy’s masterful media performance in saying practically nothing controversial and playing down his side’s chances at every opportunity has made this week one of the quietest ever for a Dublin senior football team in the build-up to an All-Ireland final.

I think to be honest that there is no pressure on us. The favourites are clearly Kerry for this game. This is our first final in 16 years and there is probably not as much expectation on us from the public. I think probably the pressure is more on Kerry to be honest.

– Pat Gilroy

5. Isolate ‘the Gooch’

The Dublin full back line faces one of their toughest tasks to date in attempting to blunt the Kerry attack on Sunday. Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper (by his own admission) has failed to reach the heights of previous campaigns in terms of scoring but the All-Star’s ability to provide the ammunition for his fellow forwards has seen the Kerry scoring more evenly spread this year.

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It is not just a case of stopping the Gooch, but of curtailing his influence on the game which is going to prove pivotal to Dublin’s chances of success.

6. Support the forwards

For a long time, the Dublin forward line could have been described in two words: Bernard Brogan. This year’s march to the All-Ireland final has seen other members of the forward division such as Alan Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and ‘Mossy’ Quinn step forward at various times to contribute valuable scores.

The current defensive system set up by Gilroy usually leaves Bernard Brogan and one other forward as the only players in the opposing half of the field when Dublin don’t have the ball. That tactic will need tweaking if the Dubs are to breach a tough Kerry back six.

Dublin’s ability to support their forwards and take the majority of scoring chances that come their way will be crucial to overhauling the favourites, Kerry, on Sunday afternoon.

Follow Ger on Twitter for regular GAA updates: @offcentrecircle

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About the author:

Ger McCarthy

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