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Wednesday 14 November 2018

It's hard to see anyone beating the Dubs

IN-FORM: Dublin’s Cormac Costello kicks a point despite the attempted block of Roscommon’s Niall McInerney in Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group 2 clash at Croke Park. Photo: SPORTSFILE
IN-FORM: Dublin’s Cormac Costello kicks a point despite the attempted block of Roscommon’s Niall McInerney in Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group 2 clash at Croke Park. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The amazing contradiction of this Dublin team is that although they're probably not as talented man-for-man as the team was from 2013 through to '15, as a collective they look even stronger.

How is that possible?

Simply, look at the performance of the team Jim Gavin fielded against Roscommon last week.

Admittedly, when I arrived to Croke Park last Sunday, I was surprised when the team was read out and Jim had made so many changes.

Managers talk these days about the strength of their squads, about competition for places and how their internal training matches are, if anything, more intense than championship games.

Last Sunday we saw that in Dublin at least, those sentiments are based in fact.

The standard that some of those players performed at, some fellas for whom that Roscommon game will likely be their only championship start this summer, was hugely impressive.

Eoghan O'Gara, for instance, hasn't featured at all this summer and look at how he played.

Now Eoghan is probably pigeon-holed at this stage to play in a certain type of game.

If it's a running game, he probably won't be used.

Opens up

BLUE WAVE: Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: SPORTSFILE
BLUE WAVE: Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: SPORTSFILE

But if the match opens up and there's an opportunity to kick long ball, O'Gara is probably the first man in.

Either way, he took his goals brilliantly.He's obviously performing at a serious level in training to be able to produce that in a championship match.

Yet only for the fact that Dublin had nothing to play for last Sunday and Jim made so many changes, we might never have known that.

Cormac Costello meanwhile, is probably in a place now where Jim has to strongly consider starting him against Galway.

Granted, last Sunday was a noticeably open game, but Costello has that positional sense, that awareness of space and a fleet of foot that you just can't teach.

Growing up, Cormac's name was talked-about a lot in Dublin as a future star and he still has that ability.

But mostly through injury, he's only started a handful of Championship games.

He looks like he's applied himself well over the last couple of months and at this moment in time, he's the sharpest of all of Jim's inside forward options.

Similarly, it was impossible to ignore the form of Paul Flynn last weekend.

Everyone knows what a competitor Paul is but having had back surgery earlier this year - given his age and the fact that the last year or two have seen his appearances diminish - it was only natural to doubt if he had lost the ability to put in that sort of shift.

And it's only a little thing but the attitude of those players after they scored last week was notable.

Every one of them was turning to get back into position for the kick-out before the ball had landed.

For opposition teams seeing that, it's a heart-breaker. Dublin kick a big score and while the opposition are still digesting it, they're already setting up to press the next kick-out.

They're relentless.

That's what Jim has built and it's probably his greatest achievement, their capability to lose six or seven players without a discernible drop in quality.

They've become just so hard to beat.

Against Galway, it's paramount that they keep their discipline, particularly up front.

In their last 12 games, nine opponents have been sent off against Galway, and seven of those were forwards.

That's the sort of edge you can't give away to top teams but the bottom line is, it's hard to see how Galway - or anybody else - are going to beat Dublin this year.

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