Monday 14 October 2019

'It's Hard to say how Dubs can be beaten'

Roscommon manager Cunningham talks down theory of Dublin's 'advantages'

Michael Darragh Macauley celebrates his goal, his third of this summer’s championship.
Michael Darragh Macauley celebrates his goal, his third of this summer’s championship.

There were moments in Croke Park on Saturday night when it was pertinent just to acknowledge and admire Dublin's quality and ingenuity.

"You see all the commentary of 'Dublin have this, Dublin have that'," said Roscommon manager, Anthony Cunningham by way of beginning his post-mortem.

"I think every county has it, and they just need to get their house in order and do it at the professional level that Dublin have set for every other county to follow."

There were any number of moments that sang about Dublin's brilliance just now.

Take Paul Mannion's first half contribution. For his first point, Mannion rounded three players.

For his second, he looked repeatedly for men in better positions, deciphered that there were none, and then sailed one over from 45 metres.

Easily the moment of most sublime synchronicity was his assist for Dean Rock's sole point from play, a wonderful pass across the face of the Roscommon goal that avoided everyone but its intended target.

Con O'Callaghan meanwhile, gave a performance of old-school ball-winning, out-fielding Seán Mullooly on four separate occasions.

"We'd be a number of years off their physicality," Cunningham noted.

"They're a seasoned team. They've been training at that level that we've just put a solid year's work into.

"Gym work and physicality, that you now need to have part of your armour, is a slow-burner. It doesn't come overnight.


"As well as that, they've a huge football brain. They've massive athleticism, speed, a strong midfield.

"Their goalie is probably the most exceptional goalie on kickouts and has transformed the whole kick-out mantra over the last ten years.

"They won the under-20s (Leinster title) last night, so they've a lot of players coming through.

"They've a huge football brain, but they've also that conditioning that they're just topping up every year and keeping on top of it."

The upshot of it all is that Dublin have qualified for this year's All-Ireland semi-final with a game left to play.

They have spared themselves the angst of needing to came back from Omagh with anything tangible and Gavin not only has the option of resting his front-liners, as he did last year against Roscommon in Croke Park, he has the squad to be competitive against Tyrone regardless what side he selects.

"Yeah, we're very satisfied," Gavin stressed.

"The objective was to get the two points this evening. We've achieved that. I thought the players again showed great respect, humility going into the game. Great preparation.

"We obviously know Roscommon very well now from the last couple of years.

"We knew the potential they have. I thought our first half performance reflected the preparation the guys put into the game.

"Overall, 2-16 or there or thereabouts from play is pleasing. Sending off didn't help them obviously. But we can only do what we can do and to that end, we're happy to get the two points."

After five Championship games, Dublin have scored an average of over 29 points per match.

They have conceded just one goal (a Luke Connolly penalty for Cork).

So it seemed an obvious question to ask Cunningham as to whether they could plausibly be beaten this year.

"It's difficult to say that they could be beaten," he began.

"I think they have so many different players that can come in.


"In the Super 8s, we all lose players and the semi-final .... I think with Dublin it doesn't matter who they lose, if they have an injury that's not going to be a problem to Dublin.

"You see that they have 26 or 28 players that can fit into any position and slot in and play away as if it's their top 15. I think that and experience (will stand to them).

"There's loads of teams that will try to close them down."

Asked if there was a specific area where Dublin could potentially be vulnerable, Cunningham replied: "You'd always say that they will let you play.

"If you take a Donegal or a Tyrone," he went on, "they'd probably be more defensive and sit back and invite you on and it's harder to break down.

"But Dublin will always let you play and you'll always have opportunities to score so you've got to take more scores than they're going to take.

"Maybe over the last three or four years we haven't seen Dublin really tested and they've won the All-Irelands comfortably.

"So you've yet to see if it's a drawn match with 10 minutes to go, what will Dublin do?

"I'm sure they have another gear. But to answer your question, they will be very, very hard to beat."

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