There was an article by Ian O’Riordan in yesterday's Irish Times (I've linked it but it's premium content so you'll only be able to see it if you subscribe to ireland.com) which was ostensibly about this weekend's Sigerson finals but was, in reality, an interview with current Kerry captain, Bryan Sheehan, about the Kingdom's prospects for 2007. In it, Sheehan lets the world know (as if we need reminding) that those scheming hoors in the South-West are hatching plans for back-to-back All-Irelands this year.
Sheehan says "the two in a row is the major driving force behind us this year. We do feel we have the players to go on and do it". For good measure, he thinks they'll challenge for the league as well, stating "we're not just trying to stay safe in the division. We're determined to reach the knock-outs." This is the confidence that winning 34 All-Irelands gives you, I suppose (just as it was when Paul Galvin, that little runt, proclaimed his delight at winning "his first" All-Ireland medal in 2004).
The main problem for Kerry is, in a word, Tyrone. This is also a problem for Mayo, as we shall see. It all began when Kerry got clobbered and clattered by Tyrone in 2003, following which they decided to get stronger and meaner and to get their revenge. Tyrone, however, didn't play ball: in 2004 their heads were, understandably, all over the shop following Cormac McAnallan's shock death and so, instead of a rematch with the Northerners, Kerry had to be content with poor, soft Mayo as All-Ireland final opponents. Result: 1-20 to 2-9, as I painfully recall.
At the start of 2005, there was plenty of loose talk from Kerry about the two-in-a-row and how it hadn't been achieved since 1990 and wasn't it Cork that did it then and wouldn't only be right, nay proper, for the Kingdom to claim the mantle of back-to-back champions, yada, yada, yada . . . But back came Tyrone (in the process even recovering from being robbed of the Ulster title by a refereeing performance that made Graham Poll look competent) and, boy, they took considerable glee in giving the Kerrymen an almighty root up the hole in that year's final. Cue mad as hell Kerrymen looking for revenge in 2006 but, once again, those pesky Tyrone boys just refused to come out to play. This time Armagh got to take some of the brunt of Kerry's righteous indignation but, once again, we have to take our more than generous helping of it in the full glare of the All-Ireland final.
If there's a pattern here, then we can expect Tyrone to re-emerge from the bushes this year, poised and ready to deliver another knockout punch to the would-be two-in-a-row champions. If they manage to do this - and they could - then we'd be well advised to steer clear of the All-Ireland final in 2008, especially if Kerry are in it . . .