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Sunday 25 August 2019

Drive for five 'procession'

Only Kerry might stop the Dubs - Cavanagh

DUBS DESTINY: Former Tyrone star Seán Cavanagh at the launch of the Benetti Menswear GAA Ambassador campaign. Benetti are an Irish designed menswear clothing brand who supply a collection in tailoring, casual menswear and footwear. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
DUBS DESTINY: Former Tyrone star Seán Cavanagh at the launch of the Benetti Menswear GAA Ambassador campaign. Benetti are an Irish designed menswear clothing brand who supply a collection in tailoring, casual menswear and footwear. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"A procession to five" . . . that's what it could be unless Kerry come with a scoring burst to puncture Dublin's quest for All-Ireland SFC history.

This is Seán Cavanagh's belief after watching the early weeks of the championship, during which a succession of supposed heavyweights have crashed out of their provinces, including Cavanagh's native Tyrone.

The retired Red Hand legend had only just retired, in September 2017, when he predicted that Dublin could become the first team in history to win five-in-a-row "or eight out of ten, whatever it might be".

Less than two years on, Dublin have completed the first four-timer since Kerry in 1981 and he can see no reason to alter his previous viewpoint.

"My whole mindset around Dublin hasn't changed. Jim Gavin just blows me away," Cavanagh said yesterday.

Kildare’s Kevin O’Callaghan is dispossessed by Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll during the Leinster SFC semi-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kildare’s Kevin O’Callaghan is dispossessed by Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll during the Leinster SFC semi-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Amazing

"Whenever you look into his personal life and what he's doing there and his military precision . . . everything he seems to do, he seems to be an amazing strategist.

"Everyone realised that the only weakness was probably there in the full-back line. Now you see Rory O'Carroll land back in!

"I've marked him a couple of times myself, and what a tough defender he is to play against. He attacks every ball, he's got that aggression and he can play football as well.

"From the outside looking in, it just looks like no matter if there's any weakness there at all, Jim has it covered."

Who then, if anyone, can stop the juggernaut? After all, last year's three other semi-finalists, along with Mayo, have all been banished to the qualifiers.

"It's going to take a phenomenal performance to take them down," Cavanagh admitted. "I've never thought they're unbeatable - I don't think any team in any sport is unbeatable.

"But it's going to take a huge improvement from . . . I think Kerry, on paper, are probably the only team at the moment that I feel could score enough to take them down.

"But you're absolutely reliant on Dublin not scoring more at the other end. If Kerry can get that forward unit moving, they'll definitely do damage.

"So, you're sort of hoping that they're going to come to the party. But if they don't, it's a procession for five."

For all that, Cavanagh hasn't given up all hope on his native Tyrone, who face a tricky trip to Longford this Saturday, or fellow heavyweights such as Mayo (away to Down) and Galway who have crashed out of Connacht.

"Look, sometimes faltering early is not a bad thing either. If you're in Mayo's camp or Galway's camp or Tyrone's camp at the minute, you're saying 'Yeah, we mucked up in our provincials but there's a bigger piece of the jigsaw to be played here.'

"I think they'll all still fancy their chances to be around at the business end of the championship. And sometimes that's what you need. Sometimes you can't sustain that top level for three months, so you just need to be right when you need to be right.

"If those teams can come through the qualifiers as better teams, they'll maybe be better placed for a tilt at Dublin come July or August.

"The reality is that Dublin are not going to get caught in the Super 8s. You're hoping that somebody - one of those, a Tyrone or Mayo or Galway or Kerry - is going to be strong come the semi-finals or the final and that's where you're hoping that they're going to put up a challenge to Dublin. Because I think the game needs it.

"At times, at that very top level, it's still hard to see how someone can beat Dublin and that's just too predictable for my liking," he concluded.

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