If the Dubs gear up, they can beat Galway, says former boss Michael O'Grady
Blues possess All-Ireland potential if they banish juvenile errors - O'Grady
ASK Michael O'Grady to sum up last Sunday's Croke Park stalemate and he'll tell you, straight up, that the Dublin hurlers were "below par" almost everywhere.
Ask the former Dublin manager what he thinks of their overall prospects and he'll wax lyrical about a team with genuine All-Ireland potential.
Therein lies perhaps your typical replay conundrum when assessing what might transpire in tomorrow's Leinster SHC quarter-final sequel against Galway in Tullamore (throw-in 4.45, live on RTÉ2).
As O'Grady puts it succinctly: "This is a serious team that Dublin have this year, I believe, and they know themselves they are capable of going all the way. But they have to take the first step first."
And to do so, they must raise their game several notches. "I think very few players would be happy with the way they played overall," the Limerick native surmises.
"There was no standout player. Mark Schutte had a very good first half, but he didn't get much ball in the second half. I'd say a lot of players would say to themselves 'God, I'm better than this'.
"So it's all about how Dublin turn up on Saturday in Tullamore. I just feel Dublin have more room for improvement than Galway. I think Galway played well overall last Sunday ... but Dublin have lots of places where there were mistakes made; and a lack of urgency; not able to kill off a game; giving away a very bad start, etc etc. They can work on all of these and I believe they will, and that will stand to them."
Some of the obvious errors led to Galway goal chances, all bar one spurned, in the first half. O'Grady pinpoints "three guys going for the one ball in the air, which is kind of juvenile stuff, and letting a guy behind to get a free run of the park ... for some reason, I reckon it's nerves, they just feel safer inside in a crowd."
He believes both teams had essentially spent six months preparing for this one match. When they met in the Walsh Cup decider in February, O'Grady kept saying to himself: "This is only a curtain-raiser".
"Both teams were so prepared that, when the day arrived, they were flat. And that can happen," he reflects.
"This Dublin team have massive expectations of themselves. I don't think they're worried about the crowd that much any more ... they owe it to themselves. That's where they are - which is wonderful. And I believe they're right to do that.
"They have beaten the best teams in the country, this year, in Kilkenny and Tipp. They should have beaten Cork below in Nowlan Park; they had them beaten all the way except for the last few minutes.
"So they have an excellent team, a chance of winning the All-Ireland … but, you know, they have to get their minds down to winning the first match, putting away a team, no matter what team it is."
He reckons a change of voice in the dressing-room has helped and describes Ger Cunningham's outfit as "Dublin's best team in a long time".
He agrees with the thrust of the Corkman's tinkering, saying of Liam Rushe: "We all know he's an excellent back, but I think the team needs him up front."
Likewise, he believes Conal Keaney is best utilised in defence, while accepting the caveats that he "doesn't have the legs he had ten years ago" and that last Sunday's switch from the wing to centre-back "probably didn't work overall".
"The team are playing a different style of hurling as well," he states, adding: "I like the more direct ball they're playing, and I think that was a weakness last year … we overplayed the hurling along the half-back line."
For all that, tomorrow's trip to the Midlands demands an immediate step-up. "They were only in third gear last week. There's two more gears in that engine," he says.
"That can happen in Tullamore - actually it has to happen, because Galway are going to grow in confidence as well.
"I'd be confident that if Dublin can get up a gear or two, they will win and they'll have a long summer."