Kingdom triumph would be extra special, admits Keane
Kerry manager Peter Keane is bracing himself for the biggest test of his sporting career to date when his side confront Dublin in tomorrow's All-Ireland final replay at Croke Park, Dublin (6pm).
In drawing with Jim Gavin's side on Sunday week last, the Kingdom spurned two goal chances, one from a penalty, in the opening quarter before subsequently recovering from a five-point deficit against what was then a 14-man Dublin side.
With several mainstream Dublin players, including midfielder Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and Paul Mannion, below-par, the gods smiled benignly on Kerry as key substitutes Killian Spillane and Tommy Walsh had vital roles in earning the side the right to fight another day.
That day dawns tomorrow and this time round Kerry will not only need to have their guard up from the outset but might require even more from their bench if they are to claim what many believe could prove one of their sweetest All-Ireland titles of all.
Kerry may have acquired 37 All-Ireland crowns but the vast majority of those were captured by their team contesting no more than three significant games - a Munster final, All-Ireland semi-final and final.
The landscape today is rather different, with Tyrone, for instance, having played 10 Championship matches this year without having anything to show for their efforts.
Kerry boss Keane may still be a rookie at elite level but he is streetwise nonetheless.
"We are grateful to be having a second go at it," reflected the Killorglin businessman.
"Obviously there were a lot of things we had to take from the first game and we have worked on these in training since then."
The dismissal of Dublin defender Jonny Cooper shortly before half-time in the drawn game discomfited the side for a spell, with manager Gavin perceived to have been rather slow in amending his rearguard.
But tomorrow, substitutes could have an even bigger role to play for both sides.
Recent history is on the side of Dublin, but glorious tradition will bolster a Kerry side that was initially deemed too inexperienced to get to the closing stages of this year's All-Ireland series but which instead has flashed the message that they could be in at the death for several years to come.
Tomorrow is all that matters to Keane right now, though.
"We know that Dublin have scope for improvement, but so too have we," he insisted. "We missed chances the last day but we showed character and spirit.
"Kerry have been a real dominant force at All-Ireland level, but if we could come out on top after drawing the last day and, in the process, thwart Dublin's drive for five, it would be an extra special triumph."
Paddy Small, Eoin Murchin, Diarmuid Connolly, Cormac Costello and Kevin McManamon were all deployed from the Dublin bench to no great effect in the drawn game, while in contrast Spillane and Walsh proved hugely influential for Kerry when despatched into the fray, while Jack Sherwood, Jonathan Lyne, Dara Moynihan and Mark Griffin all played their part.
The use of substitutes could have an even more telling effect tomorrow, particularly as both managers will not want to show their hand in taking what they might deem to be as remedial action where necessary.