Lack of intensity is a problem for Dubs
DESPITE the emphatic nature of Dublin's win over Wexford last Sunday, a few questions remain unanswered regarding the county's ambitions to defend their All-Ireland SFC title.
The match went pretty much along expected lines with the Slaneysiders putting up a brave showing throughout before finally succumbing in the second-half.
I feared before the match that the longer the contest progressed, that they would struggle to deal with Dublin's pace and scoring threat and so it proved as they shipped a glut of scores in the closing stages.
From Dublin's perspective, I don't think we learned too much from the match and it is only when an opponent arrives with sufficient power and skill to trouble them that we will see how well the Dubs are prepared for their title defence.
I thought the team selection suggested that Jim Gavin is still seeking the right blend for his talented panel and the selections of both Dean Rock and Kevin McManamon reflected that.
Both are hugely valuable members of the panel, as their contributions from last year showed but they have generally been considered impact players who do their best work from the bench and despite my huge admiration for both players, I think that is where their respective roles lie.
Neither player really convinced the other day as things didn't really work out for them and you would expect that they may struggle to hold onto their starting spot for the Leinster Final against Meath.
However, they still remain hugely integral members of the panel and their importance is magnified when you recognise the focus that their manager places on the second-half of matches.
It is a modern trend for teams to really up the ante in the third quarter and Dublin are no different in that respect.
The timing of the replacements and the quality of the personnel involved played a huge role in Dublin's success last year and both Rock and McManamon were pivotal as Dublin generally finished matches in the ascendancy.
Gavin places as much emphasis on the 15 that finishes the game as the 15 that start and as a result, both Rock and McManamon will expect to feature heavily, whether from the opening whistle or later in the game.
The nature of Wexford's challenge last weekend once again highlighted the difficulties that Dublin have when trying to reach the required levels of intensity in a match.
Their run through Leinster contrasts hugely with the example of Monaghan and Donegal in Ulster where both sides have been properly tested with their managers learning more about their panels as a consequence.
Dublin haven't tasted the heat of battle so far and in some way, it reminds me of the Leinster campaigns in 2006 and 2007 when we cruised through the province without learning too much about ourselves.
As a result, we were ill-prepared to deal with that massive increase in intensity and quality that the All-Ireland series brought and we suffered consequently.
Granted, Gavin has a far more talented panel to deal with but it is definitely a worrying factor that Dublin have yet to play with any great degree of intensity and psychologically, that presents a problem the longer that situation remains.
The presence of Meath in the Leinster Final should help address that problem somewhat as the Royals showed last Sunday that they possess the artillery to trouble Dublin.
They could have scored far more goals than the two that they managed as they opened up Kildare with ease and I would imagine that they will adopt a similar tactic against Dublin, thriving on the energy that goals can bring to a side.
They have a potent forward line and it is unlikely that they will fear playing Dublin at any stage and Meath manager Mick O'Dowd will ensure they enter the match with a huge degree of confidence in their own ability.
The potential exists for this match to be a shoot-out between two talented forward lines and the good thing from a Dublin point of view is that they will be asked questions for a more prolonged period than both Laois and Wexford managed to do.
It is essential for Dublin's championship ambitions that Meath provide the kind of test required as the danger remains that a lack of competitive action could hinder their long-term chances.