Bryan Cullen: 'Dublin will come through Leinster at a canter'
2011 All-Ireland winning captain Cullen predicts another easy stroll in province
IF there was a degree of anticlimax about Dublin's NFL Final victory last Sunday (and there was in some quarters), their recent stranglehold on the title was not the sole reason for such apathy.
Or even Cork's failure to force something representing the best out of a Dublin team still being poked and prodded for signs of evolution from last year.
Partly, it's because those in Croke Park, whom Stephen Cluxton branded "the 16th man," in his acceptance speech, know they'll be some distance into summer before any instance of drama accompanies their team again.
"Yeah, I tend to agree. I think Dublin will come through Leinster at a canter," says Bryan Cullen, facing his first summer in 13 years outside the four walls of the Dublin dressing-room.
"They've come through the league soundly and won the final well. The big test for Dublin is going to come when they come up against a Donegal, a Tyrone or a Monaghan in the quarter/semi-final stage.
"They do have the benefit of the Donegal experience under their belt from last year.
"We all know the attacking prowess that they have but they have been a bit more structured at the back so hopefully they'll carry that into the Championship."
In all, Cullen has 10 Leinster medals.
How highly he values them is not quite clear.
"I would have liked to tag on a few more All-Ireland medals," he notes, not unreasonably.
"It's a poor ratio; 10 Leinster titles to two All-Irelands. But look, we always wanted to be going through the front door."
Since 2005, Dublin have won nine of the past 10 Leinster crowns, a sequence broken only by the freakish 5-9 to 0-13 loss to Meath in 2010.
Perhaps then, avoidance of the ignominy of losing is a more prevailing force than the satisfaction of winning.
"There was always this debate about whether you were better off winning your provincial championship or coming through the back door. But no one wants to lose games," Cullen reasons.
"We just went out there to win games. The quality of the opposition at the time wasn't there to test us and to a certain degree it probably still isn't in Leinster.
"But all you can do is play the teams that are in front of you.
"Some people are calling for huge changes in structures and that but that's out of Dublin's control.
"They'll go out and play who is there and as I said, I'd be very surprised if anyone in Leinster can get near them."
As for Cork's effort at disturbing Jim Gavin's team from their spring throne, Cullen is as perplexed as the next football fan, though he suspects the result and the lopsided contest therein may be of greater long-term benefit to Brian Cuthbert than the Dublin manager.
"I'm surprised teams are still trying to go toe-to-toe with Dublin because any team that has, has failed," he points out.
"The only teams that have caused Dublin trouble are the ones who have set themselves up to try and hit Dublin on the break.
"I think we'll see a lot more of that during the summer. Maybe teams are holding back, not showing their hand until they have to.
"But I think any team that gives the Dublin forwards space and time, I think they're going to suffer."
Despite some anticipation and, indeed, his presence amongst the Dublin playing personnel for the first time in this year's League, there was no appearance from Alan Brogan, despite having made a successful return to a Dublin jersey a week previous in Cullen's home club of Skerries Harps in a challenge match draw with Galway (1-16 each).
Cullen, two years younger than Brogan, revealed he "encouraged," his former team mate to continue for a 14th season.
"He's coming in for the start of the championship and I remember Brian McGuigan did the same and ended up winning an All-Ireland medal.
"It's the same for Alan, there's no reason why he can't do the same.
"He wasn't off travelling obviously, he had a new addition to the family, so his priorities were there for a few months.
"But," Cullen concludes, "he's a massive addition."