Burning Issue: Who is going to win the All Ireland final; Donegal or Kerry?
It is the biggest day of the football year and it's a final that a lot of people wouldn't have predicted. But who is going to win, Donegal or Kerry? Two JOE’s argue both sides.
Alan Loughane says... The two best teams in the country will face off on Sunday in the All-Ireland football final and it’s a really hard one to call. On the one hand you have Donegal on the back of an amazing display against Dublin in the semi-final, and then you have Kerry who showed tremendous tenacity to see off Mayo last time out.
This game could go either way but my money is going to be on Donegal come half three Sunday. They are high on confidence after their superb win over the Dubs last time out in a game which could easily have gotten away from them had they panicked in the first half.
Earlier in the year on the Burning Issue, we discussed the teams best placed to derail the Dublin juggernaut and my honest answer was; Donegal were the team capable of toppling the champions and returning to the head of the table.
Back then I believed they had the right skillset to take on the reigning champions and come out triumphant. My belief in this team has only strengthened following the whirlwind they produced to blow away the seemingly unbeatable Dublin. They have what it takes to stifle this dangerous Kerry inside forward line on Sunday as long as they maintain their discipline in the tackle.
Donegal have a very simple yet extremely effective game plan for conquering their opponents. They defend in big numbers, force a turnover and then they break from defence at speed and in numbers relying heavily on their half backline and wing forwards to carry the ball quickly up the field.
In defence they are highly organised and they ensure they always have bodies around the 21 and D to prevent easy chances in the ‘scoring zone’. No clean shots will be taken from this area as a rule and fouling will be strictly limited to one or two fouls at the most. Kerry will not be able to rely on frees to stay in the game on Sunday because of the discipline of the Donegal defence.
I don’t agree with the whole hullabaloo that has swept across the country infecting people’s minds to the idea that Donegal are invincible. Far from it. If they don’t perform to a similar standard of the Dublin game, Kieran Donaghy and co will have another bunch of medals to add to the hundreds that have winged their way back to the Kingdom from Croke Park in the past.
But I do believe that if they perform, then they will have too much in the tank for this new look Kerry side. Donegal have a sprinkling of quality around the pitch to go with the hard graft by the rest of the team. Michael Murphy, Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn and Neil Gallagher are the spine of the team and they have the quality to inspire the Ulster side to victory.
Murphy in particular has been in fantastic form this season and showed real leadership in the quarter-final when the chips were down against Armagh. McGlynn would walk onto any other side in the country while Neil Gallagher, with the help of Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye and Odhran Mac Niallias destroyed the Dublin midfield, a midfield often hailed as the best in the country.
At this stage I haven’t even mentioned Ryan McHugh who is probably going to win Young Player of the Year as a reward for his game-winning performances against Dublin and Monaghan. Plus, am I the only one who thinks Colm McFadden may have a stormer of an All-Ireland having regained his damaged confidence in Donegal’s semi-final win?
While midfield will be a battle ground on Sunday, I can see Donegal gaining a slight edge in that area. Kerry’s David Moran and Anthony Maher are no doubt fine players, and Moran’s powerful performances against Mayo has in all probability earned him an All-Star. But, it seems unlikely that he will play as well again this season following his tour de force of 40 plus possessions in the Gaelic Grounds.
Obviously James O’Donoghue will still be as big of threat as ever for Kerry but he may find the going tough in the cauldron that is the Donegal defence. Kieran Donaghy is going to face Neil McGee, who will be a lot stronger than Ger Cafferky and therefore the Kerry full-forward is unlikely to wield as big an influence in this game as in the semi-final.
I’m going for a Donegal victory by three points. I wouldn’t bet my house on it by any means because Kerry are a very good side and are more than capable of coming out on top on Sunday. But, Donegal are riding high on a wave of confidence and look to be returning to the form that saw them crowned champions in 2012. Donegal to shade it… just.
Joe Harrington says... Nobody in the country predicted Kerry and Donegal would be going head-to-head in the All-Ireland football final this year but a sea of green and gold will descend on Croke Park this Sunday. It's a truly fascinating contest as two of the best tacticians in the game try and figure out how to outfox and unlock the opposition. It's going to be a close run thing but I think the Kingdom will be collecting Sam Maguire and here's why...
February 15th, 2014 was the day that everyone wrote off Kerry's season. That was the day Colm Cooper suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury while playing for his club Dr Crokes and for many people that was the end of the Kingdom's hopes of lifting Sam Maguire in September. To be honest, I was one of those people and if you're honest, you probably were too.
Cooper's last championship game was against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi final the season before, he ran the show on that occasion so his influence and brilliance was fresh in our minds and his absence pointed to another year without the big prize. The injury was obviously a massive blow but the timing of it was a help because the coaching staff had a chance to look at what options they had and they had time to put new systems into place. The fact that Kerry are in the final on Sunday is down to Eamonn Fitzmaurice's tactical nous and the players for buying into it.
I spoke to former Cork forward Ciaran Sheehan for JOE.ie a few weeks ago and I asked him about the final. He told me that he thinks Donegal will win but he also said that Kerry have an ability to adapt to the tactics of any side and get the better of them. That's going to be the key on Sunday, how will they adapt to Donegal's style because they have to adapt or else they'll lose.
Fitzmaurice will have learned so much from Donegal's win over Dublin in the semi final, mostly what not to do. Dublin implemented a high pressure game which saw them push up on the Ulster champions, that left acres of space in their own half which Donegal exploited excellently. The amount of space the northern side's powerful runners had to burst into was vast and they took full advantage racking up 3-14 against a team that was deemed unstoppable all season. Kerry won't do that, I'd imagine that their half back line will hold position and fill in that space in a bid to reduce the number of goal chances Donegal create because if it comes down to a points shootout, I fancy Kerry to outscore them.
It's no secret that Michael Murphy is the key man for Donegal and how Kerry deal with him is going to be interesting. The talk in the Kingdom is that Aidan O'Mahony will man mark him for as long as his legs will last and then Peter Crowley will take over when O'Mahony wilts. Both Kerry defenders will do their best to unsettle Murphy and I think they both have the strength and stickiness to do an effective job.
That's a look at the defending but how are Kerry going to get enough points on the board to win? They have a few options. The speed of how they move the ball from defence to attack will be crucial and kick passing has been one of the outstanding features in Kerry's play this year. If they can win a break in their half and get it into their dangerous forwards with one/two kicks, Donegal will be under pressure.
Another way to beat a blanket defence is to kick points from long range and Kerry have numerous players who can do that. David Moran, Johnny Buckley, Paul Geaney, Bryan Sheehan and Declan O'Sullivan are all very capable from range and I reckon we're going to see those lads have a go, especially in the early stages on Sunday. The worst case scenario is that they'll have a 33% conversion rate but they'll draw that Donegal defence out which will give space to James O'Donoghue and company inside, it's certainly worth trying for 20 minutes.
Kieran Donaghy is one of the main reasons I'm sitting here writing about Kerry in the All-Ireland Final, he dragged his side back into it in the drawn game with Mayo and was effective and clinical in the replay. But what role will he have this weekend? Will he even start? How influential is his style when Neil McGee is on his back and Donegal defenders are swarming around him? A lot of questions but I think he has to start. Donaghy's head is in the game at the moment and if he's on top form he's going to make some sort of impact. Donaghy could be quiet for 69 of the 70 minutes but in a moment he has the ability to score or provide an assist a goal so he has to play.
I have no doubt that it's going to be a close game on Sunday and heading into the last 10 minutes I have a feeling the teams will be level. Those are the moments when it comes down to a cool head and confidence in your ability and I think Fitzmaurice has installed both in his players' minds. I think Jonathan Lyne is a perfect example, the Legion man came on at the start of extra-time in the replay against Mayo and turned the game. If lads are coming off the bench with that sort of confidence and belief in their ability, things are very right in terms of where the players' minds are. They also have the experience of those two close games against Mayo so they'll have plenty of bottle when they heat comes on.
I'm going for Kerry, by the bare minimum.