Croke Park ushers in new era with a floodlit battle for age-old rivals
Dessie Farrell could hardly have asked for a more difficult opening to Dublin’s Allianz League campaign.
Farrell takes his bow as Dubs senior boss, having been victorious previously as the county’s Minor and Under 21 manager, when Dublin face last year’s fellow All-Ireland finalists, Kerry, as part of a triple header at Croke Park this Saturday.
The Na Fianna man will aim to blood at least two new players this season as the squad goes chasing an historic six Championship titles in a row, but one mainstay he has been delighted to retain is veteran goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. He has committed to the team for at least another season and will provide huge stability as Farrell goes to shape his own team and playing style.
It’s a huge night for Kerry too.
As David Clifford prepares to celebrate his 21st birthday this week, he was handed early present with the team captaincy.
Clifford, the lynchpin of an East Kerry side that won last year's county championship, will now become Kerry's skipper as the county look to bounce back from last year's All-Ireland Final disappointment. His teammates and peers say he is more than capable of handling the pressure and the two-time All-Star’s track record backs this up.
So while there is great familiarity to this fixture there is also the sense of something new and exciting as Peter Keane’s callow group of quality footballers go and take on a Dublin side with no Jim Gavin in tow.
It will be fascinating to see if the Dubs maintain their relentless rate of winning right games without the unflappable Gavin at the helm. Meanwhile, it will be equally intriguing to see how Kerry build from last year, what lessons they learn, and if they tweak their approach.
January is a long way off September but nonetheless both teams will look to put down a marker when they clash under lights at Croke Park this Saturday night.
Beforehand, the deciders for the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Junior and Intermediate Club Championship Finals take place. In the Junior final Kerry’s Na Gaeil (Kerry) take on Wexford’s Rathgarogue-Cushinstown. The Intermediate Final is between Magheracloone (Monaghan) and Oughterard (Galway).