A few of us used to go regularly to All-Ireland football finals as a matter of course, and the same four men traveled to all the football finals from about 2004 until 2011. Things change though, and a few of us have children old enough now to want to go themselves with Dad if he can snaffle an extra ticket.
Every trip home from those glorious and memorable Sundays, one of our travelling companions, Tommie Kelly who is from Rosmuc originally, would proclaim – “That’s it now. The year is over.” And his statement would always, it seemed to me, be tinged with a certain sadness.
As I get older, I have started to appreciate his point more and more. Once the final whistle is blown this Sunday and regardless of who wins or loses, 2015 for many GAA fans is over at a certain level – unless of course it is a draw. The heady excitement of trips to Dublin and the "who will win?" conversations will be put on hold until next season.
Yes, there will be some club football and hurling to come and a few jollies with the International Rules games and the Dublin and Galway hurling game in Boston in November in Fenway Park – however, the real inter-county business will be done and dusted. Filed in the memory banks.
Best two teams in Ireland in action on Sunday
There can be no doubt but that the best two football teams in Ireland will slug it out on Jones Road this weekend. Mayo did put Dublin to the pin of their collar, however Jim Gavin’s men responded well and there could be no argument in the final analysis but that the better team and the team with the better bench came through. Kerry for their part have only been really rattled once this year and that was by Cork the first day in the Munster final. They learnt a lot from that game and their primary aim on Sunday will be to stop Dublin getting in for any goals. As many teams have learnt to their cost, a goal for the Dubs at a packed Croke Park is like adding petrol to a naked flame and they thrive on the heat that it creates.
In the rip-roaring All-Ireland semi-final two years ago, Dublin hit Kerry for 3-18 and it was their goals that kept their challenge alive even when Kerry looked a better team at times. It is difficult to see Dublin beating Eamon Fitzmaurice’s side this weekend unless the likes of Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, Paddy Andrew or their sensational impact sub Kevin McManamon can raise a green flag or two.
Kerry can sneak a win
Based on what we have seen, I think that Kerry can sneak a win on Sunday and collect an incredible title number 38. Assuming that the Kerry forwards really push up on the Dublin defence and stop Stephen Cluxton finding his men with ease, the Kerry midfield of David Moran and Anthony Maher should have too much for young Brian Fenton and either Denis Bastick or probably Micheal Darragh Macauley.
If they can win enough ball, the Kerry forwards such as Colm Cooper, James O’Donoghue, Donnchadh Walsh, Paul Geaney and the impressive Steven O’ Brien will do damage on a Dublin defence that looked very porous when they were run at by Mayo in the last quarter of the drawn game. Kerry have a better midfield and more ruthless forwards than Mayo and I don’t believe that the Dublin defence will be able to keep them out, particularly if Dublin centre-back Cian O’ Sullivan is ruled out with a hamstring injury. Dublin have a terrific half-forward line with Connolly, Flynn and Kilkenny, but if Kerry disrupt Cluxton’s kick-outs sufficiently, that trio’s influence will be vastly reduced.
Eamon Fitzmaurice proved himself to be a top class tactician in their All-Ireland success last year over Donegal and he will have worked on a plan to scupper Dublin too. As we come down the motorway on Sunday evening, I expect Tommie Kelly to announce with a heavy heart - “That’s it now. The year is over.” And by then, I anticipate that we will have seen yet another Kerry/Kilkenny double as the year's bookmark.