Gavin's Blues to get job done and move on
Nothing to suggest Laois will threaten shock
For me, growing up was about following Dublin's senior footballers whether they were in Croke Park or on the road. The away games, league or championship, were much better craic.
My club Raheny would hire a bus, a 30-seater, which would be loaded up with about 40 people, adults and children, and away we'd head out on the road to Navan, Portlaoise or Tullamore.
The two most important elements of any journey seemed to be what watering holes the bus would stop at en route there and back and how many times the bus driver would be forced to stop for what might be called 'a toilet break without toilets'!
My first ever day in a Dublin senior panel as a player was 20 years ago in 1996 when we travelled as All-Ireland champions to face Louth in a Leinster SFC semi-final in Navan.
It was a great summer's evening, a capacity crowd, and the Dublin supporters were in full voice after an afternoon in some of the local establishments. The place was rocking.
We were expected to win with a bit to spare but the mood dampened when the game was not going according to plan as Louth led by a couple of points with 20 remaining on the clock.
Charlie Redmond went down with an injury and Mickey Whelan turned to the bench and said "Ciarán warm up". I remember thinking to myself "are you serious Mickey, you want me to warm up. Are you sure about that? You want me to go in for Charlie Redmond, the hero of the Hill? Christ no way, you must be joking".
Anyway off I went down the touchline in front of the capacity crowd to warm up with my body shaking and my legs literally caving in from underneath me. I could sense the supporters on the terrace beside the stand thinking "who is this big young yoke warming up here". I remember looking out on the pitch as Charlie lay on the ground and thinking "Charlie, get up, please get the f*** up". Within seconds Charlie rose from the dead and appeared ok again. My heart started to beat normally again and I returned to the safety of dugout.
Within minutes big Joe McNally stuck the ball in the Louth net and we escaped from Páirc Tailteann with a four-point win.
I went home that evening to put all my gear in a hot wash to get out the stains! It was a good learning experience without been exposed to the elements.
I was lucky to make my full debut in the next game against Meath in the Leinster Final. With Meath having played all their games in Croke Park that year, they had a huge advantage against us poor oul Dubs and they duly knocked us off our perch in Leinster!
So much has been made in recent years of Dublin playing in Croke Park but going on the road was never a problem for the supporters or the team.
Dublin were simply not asked too and it made commercial sense for the Leinster Council to keep them in Croke Park.
That will all change tomorrow evening when the Dubs take over the city of Kilkenny to take on Laois in Nowlan Park.
The atmosphere will be electric and the good weather will add to the occasion. Regrettably though in terms of a contest, it does not matter where this game is played as there will be only one winner.
There has been a sense of defeatism coming from Laois in recent weeks with their manager Mick Lillis waving the white flag to the Dubs in is his post-match interview following their victory over Wicklow.
Laois were uninspiring in their first round victory and the additions of Anthony Cunningham and most recently Shane Curran indicate to me that all is not well within their camp.
When any manager needs to freshen things up in their first six months of the job it is not a healthy sign.
So in terms of fixtures, it is not an ideal time to becoming up against a ruthless Dublin outfit.
Jim Gavin will approach this game like a military operation. He will view the game as more a mental challenge than a football challenge.
Different atmosphere, different environment, same game-plan. Get in, get the job done and move on. The current Dublin team is mentally strong and they will relish a different challenge thrown at them.
Aside from Paddy Andrews, Dublin will be a full strength. If Laois are to stay in the game, they must have a solid defensive structure and try to be the first team to ask any real questions of the Dublin full-back line, shorn of Rory O'Carroll, with a few high balls into Donie Kingston in the full-forward line.
Dublin employed James McCarthy at full-back on Michael Murphy in their league semi-final victory and I believe Tipperary caused the Dublin full-back line some trouble in a recent challenge game with their early direct ball tactic.
It could be an area where Dublin might still have concerns and it could prove to be a source of hope for their opponents.
However, Dublin's power and pace right throughout their team will just be relentless and once they are disciplined the process will look after the outcome.
I expect Jim Gavin will have his homework done and will target John O'Loughlin's runs from midfield which can give some oxygen to the O'Moore County's forward line.
It is regrettable that that is about as much as Laois can hope for; they will simply not be good enough.
Better go check and see what time that bus is leaving at on Saturday morning!