Ger Brennan predicts semi-final will be a test of Kerry's bottle
By John Harrington
Two-time All-Ireland winning Dublin footballer, Ger Brennan, believes Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry will be a test of this Kerry team’s bottle.
The last time the Kingdom beat their great rivals in championship football was the 2009 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.
Since then, they’ve played six more championship matches with Dublin winning five and one match ending in a draw.
Kerry supporters are desperate to finally end that sequence of failure, and Brennan believes it’ll be a serious test of Kerry’s mental resolve if Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final is close on the scoreboard coming into the final minutes.
“Will they actually have the belief coming into the home straight if they're a couple of points up or a couple of points behind?” questions Brennan.
“For me that's all that's going to be in it at that stage. Will Kerry be able to keep doing what they're doing and close out the match or keep doing what they're doing and try to regain control?
“That's the question I'd say Jack O'Connor will ask them beforehand. Do they want to be known as bottlers who can't get over this Dublin team? Or known as the team that eventually got the monkey off the back after 11 years of being dominated by Dublin?
“It's a similar dressing-room that Jack O'Connor has now that Pat Gilroy had with us going into 2011 and I no doubt they're having similar conversations. Human beings are human beings. What motivates us and what triggers us hasn't really evolved in the thousands of years we've been on this earth.
“Being able to find the right words as a manager is part of what makes a manager great and successful in terms of trying to get fellas over the line.”
Brennan doesn’t believe there’s much between the two teams in terms of quality, and that the biggest variable is whether or not either or both of Con O’Callaghan and David Clifford will be fit to play.
“It's going to be fairly tight,” he says. “If Con O'Callaghan and David Clifford are both playing I think it's going to go down to the wire, possibly extra-time. If both lads are injured, then it's also going to go down to the wire, possibly extra-time.
“But if either team is missing a Con or a Clifford, then the team with the other guy playing will progress because both and Con and Clifford are a huge part of their respective forward line in terms of how they move and the amount of attention that they attract which opens up space for other players which adds a whole lot to how their forward lines move.
“There's going to be very little between them. The Kerry bench would have a bit more for me. I know Dessie has withheld a couple of more established players, Niall Scully being one and Davy Byrne is coming back into contention now as well. If Dublin can finish with a slightly stronger team than the one that starts, then they've a decent chance.
“But, look, there's going to be very little between the squads in this game.”
When Brennan was in his pomp for Dublin he was a play-making centre-back who liked to sweep and dictate play from deep positions. When he then hung up his boots Cian O’Sullivan performed the same role which great efficacy also.
If Dublin are to beat Kerry on Sunday, Brennan believes this tactic of having a spare defender who can mop up the ball and initiate attacks will be key.
“Regardless of whether Clifford starts or not, Dublin will want to generate a plus one in their defence which more than likely will be Eoin Murchan because he's played that role quite a bit. Jonny Cooper has played it a bit as well since Cian O'Sullivan's retirement and they will have a plus one there for much of the game.
“On the opposition kick-outs, I think Dublin might try to push up to force turnovers and create havoc and confusion in the Kerry defence and try to generate as many scoring opportunities as they can from the opposition kick-out.
“Even if they don't win the kick-out, Dublin will have enough bodies up there to slow down the Kerry attack which will allow Dublin to set up defensively. Generating that plus one will be key for Dublin regardless.”