herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

test of Faith for christie and his dubs

Minor boss Christie enjoys pressure to succeed ahead of Leinster MFC opener against proud Offaly

Dublin will be taking a step into the unknown when they open up the defence of their Leinster Minor Football Championship with a clash against Offaly at Parnell Park next Saturday (12.30).

The Dubs may have overcome the Faithful County earlier this spring in the Leinster Minor League but Dublin manager Paddy Christie anticipates a far tougher challenge from the midlanders in four days' time.

Apart from the fact that league form is very rarely replicated come the championship, the visitors will arrive in Donnycarney keen to revenge the hammering they endured from the Dubs in Tullamore last summer, an especially dispiriting evening for the county's football supporters.

"We may have beaten Offaly quite convincingly earlier in the year but I wouldn't be reading too much into that result," said Christie.

"We were under a fair bit of pressure early on in that game and then they lost two key players through a black card and an injury which allowed us to pull away in the second-half.

"Despite having a small population, Offaly will always produce decent footballers and decent teams and they have put in a huge effort at underage in recent years.

"They are traditionally a proud bunch and there's nothing they would enjoy more than coming down to Parnell Park and taking Dublin's scalp.

"Having said that, the fact that there is a second chance for counties at this stage might take away from the intensity of the match but we'll be looking to get the campaign off to a good start," added the Ballymun Kickhams clubman.

What may aid Dublin in the short term is the confidence they can take from a successful League campaign that culminated in an improved display in the decider against Kildare.

That 2-10 to 2-5 win hinted at a greater cohesion and fluidity within the panel which was hardly surprising given Dublin's decision to field two teams of relatively equal strength in the group stages.

That option allowed Christie to give all players on his panel an extended opportunity to justify their inclusion or otherwise with the former Dublin full-back confident that decision will be vindicated in the coming months.

"We entered two teams in the league for obvious reasons and although there was a lot more work involved and the strength of the teams was diluted a bit, we felt it was the fairest way of giving all the lads a chance of proving themselves.

"Obviously, we are far more settled now and working towards a far more concrete plan.

"We are able to work on specific plans at the moment and the players have come into their own at this stage and we're all really looking forward to getting our championship up and running.

"To win the league was good for the lads in terms of their confidence and especially beating Meath when we didn't play particularly well in the semi-final, won't have done the lads any harm.

"We dragged ourselves over the line that day which is the type of attitude that will serve the panel well but despite winning the final against Kildare, we know that win will be forgotten if things don't go especially well in the championship," he added.

Given their status as current holders, despite very few players remaining from last year's Leinster winning team, Dublin will enter Saturday's match under pressure to succeed as appears the norm for any of the county's representative sides.

However, Christie feels that the expectation surrounding his side can work to his team's favour as his players can build on the solid foundations that have aided previous teams.

"Well, Dessie (Farrell) hasn't done me any favours, winning everything all around him but seriously, I would much prefer to be in our position of being under pressure to win things rather than a county looking to make a breakthrough.

"There is very good ground-work for our players to benefit from and that should give them confidence to maximise their potential.

"We have some fine footballers and expectations are rightly high but that doesn't guarantee that you can't have a bad day at the office sometimes.

"We just need to go out and play to our best, starting with Offaly next Saturday and see where the season takes us," he added.

RULED OUT

What may help Christie in his ambitions is the relatively clean bill of health that his panel enjoys at present with only three players from his squad ruled out of the equations for this coming Saturday.

Stephen Smith from Skerries Harps suffered a dislocated shoulder in that Leinster Minor League Final win over Kildare and it may be another six weeks before the corner-forward is central to Christie's plans.

Similarly, long-term absentees Gavin Hartnett and Dean O'Brien are progressing slowly but surely towards full fitness although the Offaly tie will arrive too soon for their potential inclusion.

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