The weather people are saying that it’ll be a touch colder over the weekend but the sun should still be shining and it looks like it’ll be close to a full house at Croke Park for this year’s NFL Division One and Two finals. Tyrone take on Cavan in the Division Two final (throw-in 1.30pm) with the main event the Division One decider between Dublin and Kerry (throw-in 3.30pm).
The League usually slinks away unloved and unmourned each year but this time round the strong marketing push – largely to do with the 1916-inspired Laochra extravaganza, which is set to occur at HQ right after the Division One decider – means that the spring campaign will, for a change, end on a high. Sure, it’ll all count for naught once the real stuff gets going next month but a League decider between the game’s two heavyweights played out in front of a full Croke Park in the bright spring sunshine is sure to feel like a bit of an occasion in its own right.
The fact that it’s a Dublin/Kerry final – the first League one between the two counties since 1987 – clearly adds lustre to the event. Seven months on from Dublin’s decisive win over the Kingdom in last year’s All-Ireland final this earlier than envisaged rematch between last year’s Sam Maguire finalists gives everyone a chance to assess the respective form lines since then.
Dublin have started 2016 pretty much as they finished 2015, with their long unbeaten run leaving them on the cusp of a League four-in-a-row – a feat last achieved by Kerry in the 1973/4 season. The possibility of this happening, allied to the growing chatter about the unbeatable Dubcelona, gives Kerry a strong incentive to land one on the Jacks on Sunday. That, of course, and the inevitable “hurt” they’re apparently feeling right now.
Kerry’s last win in this competition was, incidentally, back in 2009 and they’re coming into Sunday’s final with a decided pep in their step after performing better than expected over the last few months. Although I suspect the stat won’t have too much relevance for Sunday, it’s also worth pointing out that the Kingdom have a spectacularly good strike rate in NFL finals – they’ve won 19 out of the 23 they’ve contested. The Dubs, meanwhile, have emerged victorious from eleven of the 21 League deciders they’ve got to.
All of which will, of course, count for nothing once Eddie Kinsella throws in the ball at Croke Park at 3.30pm on Sunday. Dublin are the bookies’ favourites to prevail – Paddy Power have them priced at 8/13 – but who do you think will do it?
Who will win Sunday's League final?
- Kerry (51%, 88 Votes)
- Dublin (49%, 86 Votes)
Total Voters: 174