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talking point Despite Peter Keane’s near-comical downplaying, he knows Kerry are expected to be champions 


Peter Keane's has taken the downplaying of fact to another dimension. Photo: Sportsfile

Peter Keane's has taken the downplaying of fact to another dimension. Photo: Sportsfile

Peter Keane's has taken the downplaying of fact to another dimension. Photo: Sportsfile

Peter Keane continues to resolutely - and, it has to be said, more than a little comically - firefight evident truths, hosing every last available gallon of Kingdom cold water on Kerry’s blazing summer of slaughter.

If the dampening of expectation continues to Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final throw-in, the lakes of Killarney might soon resemble the bone-dry Sahara.

Yet, no gush of quenching Yerra, not even one that drains the entire Blaskets seabed, can extinguish a reality Keane knows all too well. Should his team fail to scratch their seven-year Sam Maguire itch in just over a fortnight, his tribe will regard it as a sporting catastrophe.

In a 70-day green-and-gold wildfire between mid-May and late July, Kerry scorched the football earth.

They played seven games and led by the pyrotechnics of Sean O’Shea and the Clifford brothers, won six of them by an eye-popping 94-point aggregate.

In the league, Galway (beaten by 22), Roscommon (six) and Saturday’s opponents, Tyrone (16), stepped into the ring only to one-by-one discover the grim truth inherent in that old Mike Tyson line about everybody having a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Kerry’s green-and-gold juggernaut then eased into championship-crush mode: Clare (beaten by 17), Tipp (11) and Cork (22) reduced to roadkill, carrion on the highway to Croker.

That the latter carnivorous slaughter was achieved without David Clifford scoring from play spoke of the breathtaking array of attacking options available to Keane.

Sixteen Kerry players scored in their three-game stroll through Munster, 13 of them against Cork. The Footballer of the Year betting is headed by three Kerry forwards. That Paul Geaney, scorer of 2-1 against the Rebels, is not among them speaks eloquently of their depth of talent.

In that six-game bonfire of brilliance, Kerry scored 20 goals: Tyrone staggered out of Fitzgerald Stadium legless from the effect of a Kingdom six-pack; Cork and Galway were each torn asunder four times.

Even the one game the Munster giants failed to win felt as empowering as any of their victories.

Kerry handed Dublin a seven-point lead before, in an eerie precursor of Mayo’s recent rising up, seizing the title deeds to the second half to claim a draw that felt like a victory.

It was indicative of a trend which, even before Mayo brilliantly ransacked the Sky Blue empire, hinted at an imminent and epochal shift in the balance of power.

The vast majority of intercounty managers worship at the altar of caution. They don’t merely keep their feet on the ground, they stun-bolt them to the floorboards.

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Conor McGregor levels of bombast are, mercifully, as rare as a Limerick hurling loss.

And still, in ransacking the Comical Ali book of quotes, Keane has taken the downplaying of fact to another dimension.

His summing up of Kerry driving a wrecking ball into Tyrone and flattening their entire edifice stopped just short of suggesting the Ulster side continued to resemble football’s gleaming and majestic Taj Mahal.

“If you took the goals out of the game, there wasn’t a whole pile in the scoreboard at the end of it,” he deadpanned in the minutes after his team had gone all Hannibal Lecter and devoured their old, hapless foe.

And if you took John, Paul, Ringo and George out, there wasn’t a whole pile between The Beatles and Boyzone.

In his All-Ireland final press briefing, Keane acknowledged that his earlier summation had provoked a dam burst of chortles, but then doubled down on his thesis that if one more butterfly in the Amazon had flapped its wings that afternoon, the result might have been entirely different.

Tyrone lost by 16 points to Kerry, conceding six goals in the process. The Red Hand have subsequently been poleaxed by a Covid outbreak. The Kingdom victory in the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final was their fourth straight championship victory over the one opponent they couldn’t takedown in the Noughties. That hoodoo long ago ended.

Anything other than a convincing Kerry win on Saturday would represent a massive systems failure.

For all the thunderous emotional momentum Mayo carry from the Dublin game, and not ignoring Kerry’s nagging defensive concerns, Keane has at his disposal the most talented panel of footballers in the land.

They are capable of weaving patterns that are both beautiful and irresistible.

James Horan has electrified the summer with his Mayo rebuild and they will surge into Croke Park on September 11 on a tsunami of self-belief.

But there is a reason why the oddsmakers algorithms, untroubled by sentiment and governed only by logic, installed Kerry as All-Ireland favourites after their awesome show of Munster final muscle against Cork.

The bookmakers could not ignore their combination of swaggering form, tradition, and their arsenal of offensive weapons,

At that stage, Dublin were still breathing.

Once Dessie Farrell’s jaded platoon flatlined, once Tyrone’s players began to fall like flies, it became next to impossible to present a rational or coherent argument against Kerry coming unstuck this weekend.

Peter Keane knows this.

Few would be inclined to complain if he were to disconnect his firefighter hose and allow his team's talent to blaze onward toward their destiny.

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