Thursday 21 November 2019

Dilemma day for Gavin

Plenty to ponder as champions and Tyrone renew rivalry with little at stake

Paul Mannion was in fine form as Dublin dismissed the challenge of Roscommon
Paul Mannion was in fine form as Dublin dismissed the challenge of Roscommon

While any league or championship match against Tyrone is eagerly anticipated, particularly when taking place in Healy Park, it's fair to say that next Sunday's clash between Dublin and their Ulster opponents in Omagh lacks that frisson of excitement normally associated with clashes between the two counties.

Unquestionably, the fact that both teams have already secured their progression to the All-Ireland semi-finals has led to a dilution in terms of national interest.

However, any match that features this current Dublin team should rightly be appreciated in terms of the skill level and intensity that their collective performances highlight and their five-year unbeaten record is testimony to their enduring excellence in recent years.

Whether they wish to put that record at risk by fielding a supposedly weakened team next Sunday is open to debate, but for former Dublin selector Brian Talty, it is Dublin's attitude and not the personnel on the pitch that will ensure due diligence next weekend.

"To be honest, it's very hard to know what the team selection will be on Sunday, but one thing that we can be sure of is that Dublin will try to go out and win the match.

"This has always been the case under Jim Gavin and I cannot see any change to that mentality, irrespective of them having already qualified for the All-Ireland semi-finals.

"It is a good opportunity to play some fringe players, to sharpen them up in case they are required for the semi-final and you can be sure that whatever team is picked, they will be strong and competitive.

"Dublin have started to build up some decent momentum over the past couple of weeks and I wouldn't imagine that they would want to risk losing that with the semi-final so close at hand.


"The group is so methodical in what they do, in terms of their playing style, that it mightn't be too disruptive if they do make a number of changes to what they consider their strongest 15.

"What interests me is how Dublin and, indeed, Tyrone approach the game tactically, given that there is a chance the two counties could meet in the All-Ireland final.

"That may cause them to be reluctant to show their full hand, but all teams know how Dublin are going to set up tactically, in many respects - the constant problem for them is their inability to prevent them from imposing their game.

"With Tyrone, it's slightly different as they seem to have reverted to a more defensive style in the past couple of games, having been more expansive during the league and the Ulster Championship.

"They might revert to that next Sunday, delivering quick ball into their full-forward line, or they may just continue with Colm Cavanagh dropping back behind his half-back line and build slowly from the back.

"Either way, both teams would want to carry on winning, but the circumstances surrounding the game and the fact that both teams are already assured of their semi-final spots makes it difficult to predict how it will pan out," added Talty.

One thing that Dublin might look to evolve and build on is the success that they achieved in playing a quicker, more direct attacking game in their victory over Roscommon last Saturday week.

The Dubs proved impossible to curb that night, particularly in the first half as they opted to launch early ball into their full-forward line, utilising the aerial strength of Con O'Callaghan and the searing pace of Paul Mannion to telling effect.

While Talty acknowledges that the challenge that Roscommon presented was below what could be expected at this stage of the year, he was still suitably impressed with what he witnessed from the holders.

"From looking at Dublin over the course of the year, they certainly seem to be timing their run well from a fitness and sharpness perspective.


"Of course, you could argue that Roscommon were practically beaten before they stepped on the pitch and that was certainly the case once they conceded the goal and then had a player sent-off before half-time.

"I was impressed with Dublin's attitude and lads were making the type of runs that we hadn't seen previously, with the ball going into the forward line much quicker than usual.

"Naturally, it's dangerous to read too much into any game on its own, but there was an improvement in terms of Dublin's sharpness the last night out and there were some excellent individual performances too.

"I thought that O'Callaghan, for example, was unbelievable, as were a few others and the strange thing is that nobody seems to be talking at all about someone like Ciaran Kilkenny, who has been a real leader of this group.

"It's not like Kilkenny has had a poor season or anything like that, it's just that all these other players are improving at such a fast rate and playing at such a high standard.

"I would imagine that it will be a tough game but you just sense that Dublin are in no mood to lose their unbeaten run and give hope to any team," added Talty.

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