SEXTET OF SEARCHING TESTS
A RAPID run of six consecutive league
matches will play a pivotal role in Pat Gilroy’s hopes of defending the Sam
Maguire this year.
It’s not that the league matches themselves will decide the destination of the Championship in 2012, but they will do a lot to determine Dublin’s ability to be involved in deciding where that destination will be and whether or not it continues to be within the city and county limits of Baile Atha Cliath.
Starting out with Saturday’s tricky away assignment in Portlaoise, the Dubs will be pitched on a steep learning curve. The most obvious detail we’ll find out at the end of this run is the state of Dublin’s strength in depth. It was crucially important for the Dubs last year. Barry Cahill started the summer struggling to nail down a place but was an invaluable part of the side by the time things got serious, and, as has been said before, the ability to bring Kevin McManamon and Eamon Fennell off the bench to make crucial impacts played a key role in beating Kerry last September.
Rory O’Carroll and James McCarthy were stars of the 2010 All-Ireland U21 winning team who were key men for the senior success last year. You have to think that more of their comrades will follow them onto the senior team and this run of games is the perfect opportunity for that to happen.
Players who struggled to nail down a
spot last year will be determined to play a more significant role in 2012 and
again this run of games will surely facilitate that. Ross McConnell and Mossy
Quinn fit this bill more than most. If injuries allow, then McConnell will
surely play a frontline role. Quinn, too, has in the past lost arguments with
Lady Luck, but crucially his luck seems to be turning. He has looked razor
sharp recently and produced an impressive three-goal performance in what was an
all-round awesome display from St Vincent’s in Dolphin Park last Sunday.
The run of games will also allow for other details to be addressed. Gilroy has been openly critical of the team’s discipline – although they have a very strong case in trying to get James McCarthy’s red card in the fog-interrupted Mayo game over turned.
Dublin’s task of defending the Sam is hard enough already without having to do it with 14 or 13 men. The Dubs are in a new environment where 31 counties are united against them. The sooner they embrace that fact and use it to galvanise them, like successful Dublin teams of old, the better.
Being champions brings confidence but it must also surely make the team more clever and streetwise in the football sense. They could do worse than take a leaf out of the Kilkenny hurling mantra of being ruthless when their purple patch is there.The Dubs worked hard to try to perfect a football philosophy that got them to the Promised Land in 2011. The next six games will enable Gilroy to hammer home the point that old habits cannot afford to resurface.
The good news is that the Dubs are still in good shape. Prior to the arrival of the fog and the hard call on James McCarthy, the Dubs looked every inch the All-Ireland champions in the first 25 minutes in Castlebar. The flying form of Paul Flynn and Eoghan O’Gara in the victorious DCU team last weekend is very encouraging. Paul Griffin’s experience and class will be a massive on-field asset when he puts his name forward for selection over the next six weeks. Michael Darragh Macauley still looks like the all-star midfielder of last summer – so too the dependable number one Cluxton. Bernard Brogan is training twice a day, every day and subjecting himself to twice weekly Bikram Yoga sessions in 40C heat to get him in shape to force his way into the team. Diarmuid Connolly still possesses the most frightening potential in Gaelic football.
The next six quick fire games will ask a lot of questions.It will be interesting to see what sort of answers the Dubs come up with.
THE VODAFONE DUB HUB JOURNALIST
Vodafone, together with award winning GAA journalist Cian Murphy, is delighted to bring you the Vodafone Dub Hub - The Dublin GAA blog. Cian will keep you up to date with the latest news, interviews, analysis and insights on Dublin GAA. We will also be running regular give-aways so keep an eye out for competitions. Cian has been covering Gaelic games since 1992 and is a GAA Writer with the Irish Sun.
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