Gallagher: 'Do most things right and the Dubs are beatable'
Rory Gallagher doesn't buy the argument that the best time to get Dublin is at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage, when they've been softened up by another cruise through the killing fields of Leinster.
But that doesn't mean the Donegal manager is preaching pessimism ahead of Saturday's full-house Croke Park showdown with the All-Ireland champions.
"I am not sure when was the last time they lost a quarter final match - probably 2009," Gallagher remarked at yesterday's Donegal press briefing.
"We are happy to get them now. We only worry about ourselves. We feel that we have had a consistent level of performances - we know that we are going to have to improve on that. We have everybody fit and available, which is massive for us.
"This time last year and going back to 2013 and 2014, they were carrying niggles. With the exception of big Neil (Gallagher) we have a fully-fit squad - that is a very positive place to be."
For the record, Gallagher hasn't played a minute of championship football this year because of a back problem that first surfaced in March.
The veteran two-time All Star midfielder has resumed training but, according to his namesake and manager: "He just hasn't enough work done. He just wouldn't be at the pace of it ... if we get over this weekend he should be fine then."
Dublin have endured a greater share of player losses this season, most notably Rory O'Carroll and Jack McCaffrey, compounded by the injury that KO'd James McCarthy for the Leinster final and has prompted such feverish debate about his readiness or otherwise for this weekend.
But, as Gallagher warned: "Everybody knows the amount of quality players they have at their disposal is phenomenal. It is almost forgotten they are missing Alan Brogan as well, who in our opinion was one of the greatest forwards that ever played the game.
"We all know, with their club and underage structures, they've players coming in. They developed John Small. When he came in last year he was seen more as a sweeper - now he is an attacking half-back who goes up the field.
"They are well able to push Philly McMahon or Jonny Cooper out to the half-back line. They had Eric Lowndes the last day; they moved Ciaran Kilkenny to wing-back and brought Paddy Andrews in.
"There is no county better equipped, there is no point in denying that. At the same time everybody knows Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, Rory O'Carroll, and Alan Brogan - they are as good as has played in their positions in the last 10 or 12 years."
So, in summation, will 2014 history repeat itself and can Donegal topple the 1/6 favourites?
"For sure they are beatable," Gallagher declared. "Dublin would be very much aware of that as well.
"To beat them you have to do an awful lot of things right. You have to produce a level of intensity that is greater than theirs. You have to make sure, when you get the chances, that you put them away. That is the challenge for us."
The Fermanagh native's league record against the Dubs reads three games and three defeats, but his cautious optimism now stems from the battle-hardened road they have travelled.
"If we go back before the championship started, people would have looked at Monaghan, Tyrone and Cork - three teams that we played - as all being in the top seven teams in the country," he pointed out.
"While we'd be exceptionally disappointed not to win the Ulster championship, we played Monaghan twice, Cork and Tyrone. We came up short in injury-time against Tyrone.
"It was disappointing, to be sure, but a great opportunity to learn. And there is also the security that you've played three teams from the top seven in four games. You've done an awful lot of things right and that's very important for us to understand that and move forward."
As for the Blues' less taxing route, he demurs: "We don't worry about Dublin. We are happy with the road we've been on. We'd have liked to have been Ulster champions and have one game less. We're not. But the huge responsibility for us as a group is to learn from that."