Friday 19 January 2018

Dubs camp full of winners

Cribbin expects a final Mayo kick but won't back against the Blues

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin

As Tom Cribbin surveys next Sunday's All-Ireland SFC final, he wonders aloud whether to trust logic or gut instinct ... but ultimately there is no real decision to make.

It has to be Dublin.

Cribbin is ideally placed to assess our two finalists, having managed the Westmeath team that frustrated the life out of Dublin in the first half of the Leinster decider, only to be blown away in the second; and then having cajoled a storming second half fightback (in vain) against Mayo after a calamitous first.

"If I'd to put my money down, I couldn't back anyone else bar Dublin," he begins.

"But there's something inside tells me there's a kick in Mayo, and I know a lot of people say I'm mad … but in a lot of their games they've scored a couple of goals, and they've got an awful lot of scores from turnovers.

"Donie Buckley is a serious coach, and he will have them really ready. I think they're genuinely there on merit. Probably haven't played to the same level as last year - but they're still winning.

"Like, everyone thought Tyrone would beat them; they didn't. The way everyone's writing them off, there's no real expectation … I just have a funny feeling that the underdog always performs very well in those circumstances."

But then the Westmeath boss takes a more forensic look at the recent evidence.


"Dublin's performance against Kerry was just exceptional. To be five points down at half-time, three points down with ten minutes to go, and still keep the intensity of their game for the whole 70-odd minutes was just incredible," he enthuses.

For all the talk of supposed vulnerability in the air, Cribbin believes the Dublin full-back trio have excelled in the absence of Rory O'Carroll, pinpointing Philly McMahon and Jonny Cooper as very dogged, very focussed and "unbelievable man-markers".

On Cian O'Sullivan, he says people are now realising "how good this guy really is" - so much that he advocates trying to discommode the Dublin sweeper/centre-back with a speed merchant 'marker' who can bomb up and down the pitch - and score.

Finally he cites the work ethic of Dublin's inside forwards, highlighting how GPS trackers revealed that Westmeath defenders (not his middle-eight) covered the most ground in the Leinster final. "Your full-back line is actually covering ten-and-a-half kilometres, just trying to keep up with Dean Rock and Bernard Brogan," he says.

Mayo's bench is very experienced but Dublin's back-up troops are b rimming with youth and pace. "They've won underage All-Ireland medals. And being a winner is a winner. And that counts for nearly more than being around on a county team for ten years," he ventures.

Everything Dublin do, he concludes, is geared towards winning. "The same as probably everyone else in the country, so that it makes football competitive and gives every other county a little bit of hope, my heart is saying you'd love to see Mayo cause a bit of an upset. But I just couldn't back against Dublin."

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