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Armagh duo join in urging Kerry to milk the occasion

 

Big task: Justin McNulty feels Kerry are up against it
Big task: Justin McNulty feels Kerry are up against it
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Two former Armagh All-Ireland winners, Justin McNulty and Oisin McConville, are urging the less experienced brigade within the Kerry side to "embrace the occasion" to have a maximum input into Sunday's Croke Park decider.

With the all-conquering Dubs red-hot favourites to succeed in their drive for five, the feeling is that their overall experience will help to crush the Kingdom's challenge from an early stage of the game.

It's five years since Kerry last won the Sam Maguire Cup and only a handful of their starting team on Sunday will be in possession of All-Ireland medals.

But the Armagh duo stress that this should not be viewed as a marked disadvantage.

"This is a massive challenge for Kerry no matter what way you look at it but if their focus is right, their application at its sharpest from the outset and their defensive set-up solid, especially in the early stages, then they will be in with a shout," insists McNulty.

As a key defender in the Armagh side which stunned the Kingdom in the 2002 final, McNulty knows precisely what Peter Keane's side have to do in their desire to upset the applecart.

"They must not give Dublin any room, their covering needs to be excellent and their work-rate must border on the super-human. A tall order I know, but there you have it," adds McNulty.

And McConville, whose clinically taken goal in the 2002 showdown turned the table in Armagh's favour, advises Kerry to immerse themselves in every aspect of the game.

"I would urge them to enjoy meeting the President of Ireland, taking part in the pre-match parade and the other preliminaries," he says.

"It's a massive occasion but you can't let the nerves get to you. You need to get into your stride as early as possible and play with belief and composure. You don't get too many bites at the cherry against this Dublin team so when the scoring chances come along, they must be converted."

Kerry may be cast in the role of underdogs but manager Peter Keane believes his team can rise to the occasion even though their defence may be perceived to be vulnerable.

Much will depend on how they fare at midfield, where wily campaigner David Moran will have a key role in trying to blot out the huge threat that the very much in-form Brian Fenton will pose.

McConville agrees that the outcome of the midfield battle could ultimately determine who wins the game.

"There is no doubt this is a key area. Dublin are very strong there as they are not only adept at winning first-phase possession but gaining valuable second-phase possession as well which helps to keep them going forward," insists McConville.

With Dublin expected to step into the history books, Sunday's final has considerable added appeal.

Kerry's semi-final win over Tyrone gained the side enhanced credibility but not to the extent that some pundits desist from predicting a handsome win for Jim Gavin's side.

"That's the general view but I believe that Kerry will run the Dubs closer than many people think," adds McConville.

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