Rebels to test Dubs
Dublin will look to build on successful provincial campaign against Cork
Following their comfortable Leinster Final victory over Kildare nine days ago, Dublin's focus will now turn to their impending Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship quarter-final with Cork in Thurles next Monday afternoon (2.00).
The Dubs produced an impressive performance when regaining their provincial title from the Lilywhites on a 3-16 to 1-12 scoreline, maintaining the enterprising attacking play that was a feature of their semi-final win over Offaly ten days before.
Having lost their Leinster title twelve months previously, Dublin would have enjoyed regaini ng their status of champions within the province and there was an element of style attached to their display that augurs well for their chances from this point onwards.
As a result, that upward curve of progress has heightened expectations within the county but Dublin manager Cyril Kevlihan is well aware of the pitfalls of looking too far ahead at this grade.
"While winning Leinster was great for all of us, it's now just a case of concentrating on the next match.
"One of our goals at the start of the year was to win the province and we have managed to achieve that but that is behind us now to a certain degree.
"That we won last Sunday week in some style was pleasing from the management side of things but it wasn't the complete performance by any means and we are well aware of the need to improve on certain things in our play.
"The further you progress in this competition, the tougher the matches become and we will look to improve again the next day against Cork" said Kevlihan.
Irrespective of the quality of challenge that Cork present in six days time, it is imperative that Dublin maintain the momentum generated from their recent wins over Offaly and Kildare.
The line-up appears more settled and consequently, the understanding and fluency throughout the team has improved with Dublin unquestionably a more potent attacking unit than in the earlier stages of the campaign.
Nine goals in their last two matches reflect that improvement with Kevlihan keen to highlight to benefits of a prolonged summer in terms of team preparation.
"It is a feature of the minor grade that it sometimes takes time to blend the old and new panellists and naturally, the more time that you spend working with the players, the better it should be for all concerned.
"I have been very happy with all our performances this year, including the ones prior to the Leaving Certificate when we beat decent teams in Longford and Meath.
"Maybe we are showing some signs of having spent more time together and I suppose every team is developing with every training session and every match that they play," said the Thomas Davis clubman.
One potential concern to Kevlihan and his backroom team is as the championship has progressed, the pressure has increased on the dual players within the panel, especially given the pivotal roles that both Con O'Callaghan and Eoghan McHugh retain within the starting line-up.
Matches are coming thick and fast with little enough time for rest without mentioning the need to hone the relative and separate skills attached to each code.
O'Callaghan, in addition to captaining the side, has proved Dublin's scorer-in-chief, amassing 4-21 to date while McHugh has developed an imposing midfield partnership alongside Andrew Foley.
How Dublin's clash against Waterford in Thurles last Sunday affects their wellbeing is difficult to quantify but Kevlihan remains optimistic that the maturity of the players concerned will help minimise any potential drawback from that encounter in the All-Ireland MHC.
"I think that the important thing to stress when discussing these players is that they are involved in both panels on merit and that they are good enough to play both codes.
"Pat Fanning (Dublin minor hurling manager) and I have worked well to ensure that the players concerned are not placed under too much pressure and that their workload is not excessive.
"It is vital that they remain fresh as they are key players in both panels and I think we have managed to do that reasonably well," he said.
The aforementioned duo will need to be playing at their optimum next Monday against a Cork outfit that pushed a talented Kerry side hard in the Munster Final.
That 2-17 to 2-13 defeat raised hopes within the county of a positive run in the All-Ireland series.
And Kevlihan has been suitably impressed with the form that the Rebel County have shown to date.
"We know that any team that arrives at this stage will offer us a big challenge and Cork are no different.
"Munster football at this grade is very strong and competitive in recent years and Cork have a great tradition for producing strong teams at all grades.
"They gave Kerry a very good game in the Munster Final and I am sure that they will take confidence from that display and that they will look to build on that performance.
"They are a big county with a very strong club structure so they have a large body of players to choose from and in general, Cork teams are very rarely short of confidence and competitiveness.
"Having watched them, they are physically strong with some very talented forwards but that's what you expect when you arrive at this level.
"Forwards like Mark Hurley, Gary Murphy, Shane Kingston and Sean O'Donoghue are talented players and ones that we will need to keep an eye on and that is part and parcel of coming up against teams of such quality in the All-Ireland series.
"Like all teams in the quarter-finals, they are tactically astute and a very formidable opponent and all teams left in the championship are there deservedly on merit," he added.
While naturally focussed on the threat that Monday's opponents will offer to their national ambitions, Kevlihan has steadfastly and admirably concentrated on ensuring his own shop is in order, a characteristic that has served him well to date.
How Dublin fare as they enter new found territory in Thurles is open to question.
But the attitude that has served them well to date should stand them in good stead by Monday evening.
"It's another game for us that we are looking to win and there are huge rewards for whoever comes out on top on the day.
"The lads have worked very hard to get to this point and we are just looking at getting the best from our lads and if we manage to do that, they hopefully the result will look after itself, " he concluded.