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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Macauley: We won't take Lilies for granted

Dublin football star Michael Darragh MacAuley. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Dublin football star Michael Darragh MacAuley. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

MICHAEL Darragh Macauley has warned of the "huge" potential in Kildare ahead of Sunday's Leinster SFC semi-final.

A student in Maynooth University last year, Macauley (left) played with some of the players he'll face in Croke Park and pointed to Kildare's second-half destruction of Laois in a 13-point win as evidence of that threat.

"Kildare have serious potential," said the Dublin midfielder, hoping to win back a starting spot after playing a substitute's role in the opening round destruction of Longford.

"I know they probably didn't have the league campaign they would have liked but the potential that Kildare team has is huge, I think they showed that in the second half against Laois. It's something we are going to have to be ready for, we can't take anything for granted.

"The Dublin team just prepares the exact same way for every single game. The day we stop doing that we are going to get caught on the hop."

A win for Dublin on Sunday would put them one victory away from a fifth Leinster title in succession, one shy of the record for consecutive Leinster crowns set by Kevin Heffernan's Dublin from 1974 to '79.

"The numbers really mean nothing at the moment," Macauley insisted. "Obviously the seventies team are legendary but I think we are a few hurdles away from those lads."

If Leinster are the problem child of the provincial Championships and the most conspicuous example of their dwindling significance and growing unpopularity, it might just be that the cause has been misdiagnosed.

Dublin, by mutual consent, are the issue.

Going for a 10th Leinster Championship in 11 years, their overbearing and totalitarian presence in the province is halting the annual staging of a more inclusive competition.

Thus, discussing the issue of how to stop Dublin has become something of a national pastime.

Maybe though, the problem is everyone else.

Of the 10 teams in the Leinster SFC who aren't Dublin, eight of them will play their League football in Division 3 or 4 in 2016.

None, bar Dublin, will be in Division 1.

One of the Division 2 pair - Laois - lost at home to Antrim last week after leading by nine points.

It's 14 years since another Leinster county - Meath - contested an All-Ireland final.

So if, say, Kerry had traded provincial places with Dublin 11 years ago, would their Delaney Cup haul be any less now?

Or if Mayo or Donegal were somehow dumped inside the Eastern province borders for the purposes of summer football, would the damage they do to Leinster's back peddlers be any less pronounced than that of Dublin?

Or put it another way.

Is there a team in Leinster team who, this year, you'd put your house and family on making any of the other three provincial finals, were they were transplanted North, West or South?

And the portrayal of Dublin nonchalantly strolling towards another Leinster title might be fashionable but, according to Michael Darragh Macauley anyway, it's largely inaccurate.

"The Dublin team just prepares the exact same way for every single game and you have to," he says.

"The day we stop doing that, we are going to get caught on the hop."

So the process, we must assume, is as arduous and sustained in the weeks leading to a Leinster semi-final as it is to an All-Ireland semi-final.

It's just that oftentimes, the end game is decidedly different.

"It's important we prepared for the first round of Leinster the exact same way we would for an All-Ireland final - eat the same food, wear the same gear, everything, so that it just becomes routine by the time it gets to the end of the season hopefully."

Glum

Even if it is calmest in the eye of the storm, surely the glum pessimism over the Leinster SFC has penetrated the walls of Dublin's dressing-room?

"I can see where they are coming from and I would be open to discussion," Macauley insists.

"I know everyone has their two cents on what should be done and I suppose the most competitive championship is probably better.

"But the Dublin team has always rated the Delaney Cup very highly. Over the years it's been a great competition for us, so we'll just see what the GAA do going forward, but at the moment we are just happy ploughing away in Leinster."

Kildare, by popular vote, are in the sights of that plough on Sunday but Macauley - a man you couldn't accuse of not wringing every drop of ability out of himself - is convinced of their potential.

"Serious potential," he begins.

"I know that more than anyone. I was in college in (NUI Maynooth) Kildare last year and I would have known a good few of the lads so I have seen at first-hand how talented some of those players are.

"I know they probably didn't have the league campaign they would have liked but the potential that Kildare team has is huge, I think they showed that in the second half against Laois.

"It's obviously something we are going to have to be ready for, we can't take anything for granted.

"Paul Cribbin… and a few other lads. Some super footballers down there. I would have played on the Sigerson team with a few of the lads. I'd know Cribbin very well.

"I was in college, spent every day for two years, with Peter Kelly as well. I know first hand how good those footballers are.

"There's always a bit of craic, general banter," he says of the dynamic of studying and playing with future opponents.

"You're in your own Dublin bubble, that no-one will be able to get into it. I can see first hand Kildare have some serious lads who'd really give it a shot.

"Paddy Brophy as well, he was on the Sigerson. He's a big loss to them.

"A good man to get a few scores. I'm sure Paddy will be back some day to strengthen that full-forward line.

"But at the moment, they'll have to do without him."

It would, all told, be a fifth Leinster on the trot should Dublin win their next two games but Macauley is unmoved by such facts.

Legendary

"I think you just go as hard as you can for your career. You really don't start adding up things until after you have finished.

"Maybe coming towards the end of your career you try and collect as much silverware as you can but you kind of just keep going with it.

"The numbers really mean nothing at the moment.

"Obviously the seventies team are legendary and it's always brilliant to be put in the same sentence as them but I think we are definitely a few hurdles away from those lads at the moment," concluded Macauley.

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