The most interesting thing about Dublin’s games this year has been their battle with the spread. Without fail, the Dubs seem to whittle down seemingly unlikely handicaps as opponents falter in the closing stages.
However, this is one battle against the handicap that Dublin should not win. Kerry have given Dublin some of their biggest scares this decade and will not go down meekly if their greatest rivals are to succeed where they failed and land a fifth consecutive Sam Maguire.
The pressure of the occasion, coupled with an exuberant bunch of Kerry forwards, will make things uncomfortable for Dublin.
There was never really any doubt that Kerry would face Dublin in the All Ireland final, even when the Kingdom four points down against Tyrone. For Dublin to attempt to complete the unprecedented five-in-a-row against anyone else would just be wrong.
It has the makings of a final for the ages and it is highly unlikely that Dublin will slaughter Kerry like they have done every other team over the past two years. Furthermore, All Ireland finals are typically close affairs and not since 2007 has a decider been won by more than six points.
All the omens point towards Kerry winning this bet at least with the assistance of a six-point lead.
The basis for this argument is two-pronged, based on previous games between Dublin and Kerry and Dublin’s games this year. Kerry have led at half time against Dublin in two of their previous three defeats and have inflicted virtually all of their damage in the opening period.
Kerry have scored five goals against Dublin in their last three games. All five goals came in the first half of the 2013 semi-final and 2016 semi-final. The Kingdom seem to have a knack for putting Dublin under pressure for a sustained period and will attempt to do so again on Sunday.
Dublin’s ruthless third quarter against Mayo demonstrated that Kerry need to take as big a lead as they possible can into the dressing room at half time. The Dubs have also started slowly on several occasions this year.
Jim Gavin’s side were lacklustre against Meath in the opening 35 and only scored five points in the opening half. They beat that first half tally by just one when they faced Mayo in the semi-final.
Similarly, Dublin were slow to start against Cork in the opening game of their Super 8’s campaign and if they are to be beaten, it simply must be done in the first half.
Recent history tells us, however, that Dublin will not panic and have the nous to reel Kerry in.
While the 2015 All Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry was the lowest scoring final since 2003, that was predominately down to treacherous conditions that would have been more at home in the middle of December than September.
A slick surface put paid to any real spectacle and the game suffered as a result. The forecast is for clear skies this Sunday though, which should lend itself to an open and attacking game.
If Kerry do inflict early damage on Dublin’s rearguard, then the total points will easily surpass the 42.5 mark.
Donegal’s Michael Murphy suggested that 2-20 was required to beat Dublin. Kerry might not quite reach that figure, but if they are in the vicinity and still fall short, then it stands to reason that the total points will be quite a lot higher than 42.
Dublin’s scoring average this season stands at a ridiculous 27 points per game from seven games, while Kerry’s is at a comparatively low, but by no means unimpressive, 22. If both sides can emulate their averages on Sunday, they will be close to breaching the 50-point mark, never mind 42.
*Prices correct at time of posting