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Thursday 21 November 2019

Jim keen to retain awesome aura in 'Riddle of Omagh'

Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte shake hands after Dublin’s second win in Omagh last year in July
Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte shake hands after Dublin’s second win in Omagh last year in July

We're sure Jim Gavin has never faced a conundrum quite like Sunday.

"What about the Rossies?" you retort. Wrong: you have dead-rubber similarities but this is different. Trickier, not just in the practical sense of trying to win a match in front of you, but in seeking to best prepare for what comes next.

Put it this way: Dublin were never going to lose against Roscommon 12 months ago. No matter what team took the pitch - so long as they were 15 members of Gavin's squad, as opposed to 15 Dubs wandering in from Gill's.

Fresh, or rather fatigued, from gruelling back-to-back defeats to Tyrone and Donegal, Ros were waiting for their summer to end.

Perfectionist

What transpired had a challenge-match 'feel' to it as Dublin racked up 4-24 and coughed up 2-16. Their perfectionist boss won't have loved the latter stat; but this game was all about getting through physically unscathed ahead of Dublin's semi-final against Galway, just six days later.

Just like this Sunday? Correct. But the 'Riddle of Omagh' is far less straight-forward.

When Dublin entered a Healy Park cauldron last summer, Gavin went with the 15 players who would subsequently start the All-Ireland final against the same Red Hand rival.

A fortnight later, he made ten changes for the Rossie dead-rubber. The five survivors were Stephen Cluxton, Philly McMahon, John Small, Cian O'Sullivan and Jack McCaffrey (the latter duo were a relatively short time back from long-term injuries, needed game-time, and both were replaced at half-time).

Will Gavin make ten changes on Sunday? That strikes us as overly ambitious, for several reasons ...

* Tyrone are an All-Ireland threat and would morph into a more serious one in the event of victory here. Ten changes, at the start, could be five too many.

* This is not Croke Park, a geographical reality that makes this fixture immediately more problematic.

* A first SFC defeat in almost five years could place a morsel of doubt in Dublin minds ahead of a semi-final against, quite probably, Kerry a week later. Moreover, it would energise not just Tyrone but both other semi-finalists.

* Dublin's record unbeaten streak, 31 games and counting, is not just a proud boast that Gavin and his players won't want to relinquish. It bolsters their awesome aura; the sense of invincibility that adds a further protective shield in a close-run contest.

Ultimately, Gavin must weigh up all the above against the consideration that, if Dublin expend too much energy and/or suffer ill-timed injuries, they could be vulnerable for a testing semi-final just six days later. A conundrum, for sure.

The good news? Mickey Harte faces a similar one. He must know that going for the jugular and coming up short could be even more damaging to Tyrone.

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