bred on the intensity
Dublin's new wingman Dias not fazed by the step up to big time
IF making your Dublin debut in Croke Park against Kerry, marking someone of the ilk of Paul Galvin is supposed to be an overawing experience. Craig Dias skipped that part of the episode entirely.
Then again, his football schooling has taken place in some fairly hectic classrooms so by the time he took the blue number seven shirt earlier this month, there wasn't a whole pile that could faze him.
Having been thrust into the frontlines of club warfare during Kilmacud Crokes remarkable 2010 Leinster club title win, Dias was swiftly drafted into Pat Gilroy's squad last March following a series of swashbuckling performances.
And even if his presence with Dublin wasn't detected until this year's League opener, he is -- by virtue of spending last summer in the shadows -- now fully au fait with the demands and expectations that come with wearing the blue jersey.
It has become a matter of record that the internal training matches at St Clare's in the week before each championship match took on huge importance in team preparation, a fact that Pat Gilroy readily attested to after their September success.
Dias contends: "They're more intense than an actual match.
"I remember Pat rang me before the Tyrone game (All-Ireland SFC quarter-final) and said, 'be ready'," Dias told the Herald.
"He came up to me before the match as well and said 'it's not going to be as intense as the training games that we do'.
"So I was ready if I had to come on. And I almost came on. It just never materialised, because it was late in the game.
"But because we weren't in the qualifiers, it meant the training games became really important.
"We had our own little championship going. It was a game week-in, week-out. The intensity was so high, it was unbelievable," added the Crokes wing-back.
"The All-Ireland final mirrored our last internal challenge game. The 'B' team were up by four points in that match and the 'As' came back and drew with us.
"They're very intense games. No one holds back. Everyone going hell for leather."
So even if he didn't quite make it onto the pitch last year, Gilroy had no qualms about introducing Dias to the rigours of inter-county football this time around.
Clearly, though, being part of an All-Ireland winning panel didn't leave Dias feeling he could sleepwalk into the team and he was in the gym four days-a-week by the end of October. "Your goals constantly change," he surmises of his rapid rise from the Crokes second team into Dublin starter.
"If you want to accomplish something, just say 'I'm going to do it'. If you believe in it that much, you probably will. If you get that chance, you just have to grab it. I got my chance and I'm trying to take it."
That he got his chance at wing-back rather than his more familiar half-forward posting scarcely registers with Dias.
He reckons wing-forward is "the most demanding position to play on the field" but accepts there are tactical nuances that come with playing in this Dublin team's defence which he is still acquiring.
"I'm still learning the system. I speak to (Stephen) Cluxton or Ger Brennan about it a lot in training," he revealed.
"I'm getting there. It's tough but once you nail it down, you're grand.
"It's everything combined. It's knowing the players around you and knowing their style of play. And listening to them as well and developing some intuition."
After starting against Kerry and the abandoned match in Mayo, Dias is firmly in the frame to do so again in Portlaoise Saturday evening, provided he can overcome the bout of 'flu which has curtailed his training over the past week.
That Dublin lost to Kerry in round one hardly registered as a blip in the capital, but Dias is adamant that there are major benefits to winning in spring.
"You always want to win games," he said. "Our goal is to win the League.
"But, moreso, blooding players and getting more options and involving more players, because it's going to take a much bigger effort if we want to repeat what we did last year.
"Winning the All-Ireland last year brings experience," he adds.
"If you know how to win one, you can do it again.
"In the next few years, we'll win at least one or two more."