All-Ireland Championship: Kerry manager O’Connor vows to go on attack
The possibility of a rich harvest of scores looms large in Sunday’s All-Ireland football final — but only if the respective managers deliver on their stated philosophies.
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor, without openly condemning the defensive tactics that all but strangled the Dublin v Donegal semi-final, has made it abundantly clear that such a strategy “would not be accepted at all by Kerry fans.”
And his Dublin counterpart Pat Gilroy has indicated that his team can now shake off the shackles which clearly inhibited their performance against Jim McGuinness' side and unleash the attacking flair of which they are known to be capable.
Yet there remains a strong sense that neither team will indulge in a spirit of adventure if it means displaying the slightest element of vulnerability at the back.
O’Connor, though, never a man to mince his words, believes that his team will flourish if they adhere to their traditional policy of mixing the long and short game.
“If we tried to play as defensive as Dublin and Donegal did, it would not be the opposition followers who would be booing us, it would be our own fans, so it wouldn't be a runner for us,” insists schoolteacher O’Connor.
“I'm not disrespecting the way that any other team is playing, but our fans just wouldn't like that type of football and we wouldn't have the goodwill of the people. And sure if you don't have that, what are you playing the game for?”
With Colm Cooper playing some of the best football of his career in his role as captain, Declan O’Sullivan a mercurial creative force and Darran O’Sullivan’s predatory instincts very much in vogue, Kerry boast an impressive attacking arsenal.
O’Connor knows though that Bryan Sheehan and Aidan Maher will shoulder a big burden at midfield and it will not be a surprise if Paul Galvin is sprung from the bench at an early juncture to lend assistance in channelling out second-phase possession.
“From our point of view we have to set out our stall with the emphasis on attack,” insists O’Connor.
It’s a sentiment that is likely to be endorsed by the rather more cautious Gilroy who is under huge pressure to deliver Dublin’s first All-Ireland title in 16 years.
His team just managed to pip Kildare in the Leinster semi-final, were not particularly impressive against Wexford in the final, performed majestically against Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final and were then forced to hang on by their fingertips before easing out Donegal in the last four.
Gilroy believes though that Dublin, with the Brogan brothers Alan and Bernard and Diarmuid Connolly (pictured) in their forward line, have the weaponry to shoot down the Kingdom, although he concedes that the midfield battle will ultimately provide the key to the outcome.
“I thought we stuck to our task well against Donegal, but we will need to do even more on Sunday,” said Gilroy.
“Kerry are very comfortable in All-Ireland finals, they know what it takes to win matches like these.
“This is a big, big test for us, but we are better now than we have been and we feel we can deliver a big performance.
“We will need to put scores on the board and that means we will have to create chances and then take them.”
Dublin have travelled a more arduous route to reach the final yet confidence and optimism now engulfs the squad on the back of this while Kerry, largely untroubled in winning the Munster title, glided past Limerick in the All-Ireland quarter-final before outwitting Mayo at the semi-final stage.
On Sunday, it could well be that fortune will favour the brave — something of which O’Connor and Gilroy are acutely aware.