Lyons: Dublin must change
Ex-Blues boss believes tactics need tweaking
TOMMY LYONS predicts more success for Dublin but with one crucial caveat: "The gameplan that won the All-Ireland last year won't do it this year."
The man who famously christened the Dubs, "the biggest gig in town" during his three-year reign isn't quite predicting a comfortable retention of the All-Ireland this year or next, but doesn't subscribe to the 'they've had their year' theory either.
"What's for certain is that there will have to be some sort of tweaking of Dublin's gameplan," he reasoned.
"It's all about having phenomenal fitness levels so they will need 21 or 22 in-form players so I wouldn't be at all surprised if Dublin don't produce another couple of rabbits out of the hat, fellas who are on the panel now and haven't got much airtime. I would expect there would be two or three new faces in their first 21 on match day."
He added: "I would be very comfortable that Dublin will be up there again. I expect Dublin to be very competitive again, especially given the age profile of most of the team.
"I can see them competing very strongly in the next three or four years. How many All-Irelands they'll win, I don't know.
"But they will be very competitive in the next three or four years."
Lyons, unlike many, is not worried about the effect of success on the group. The younger players, he feels, have been reared in an atmosphere of triumph and know no different.
The older members - many of whom he gave inter-county debuts to during his three years at the blue helm - are self-motivated by their nature and won't be satisfied with the 'one-hit wonder' tag.
"I think Alan Brogan and Bryan Cullen and Barry Cahill, for example, they'll play out of their socks this year," he predicts.
"I think winning the All-Ireland will be a weight off their shoulders and I think they'll be good this year.
"They will want a second one. There aren't too many Dublin players around with two All-Irelands and they will want to get into that elite group of people, like the players from the 70s."
Naturally, Lyons is unmoved by the events of last Saturday in Croke Park then. Dublin's performance, he says, wasn't the first visible effects of 'second-season syndrome' just a sign of the lesser known and much less terminal condition, that of early season syndrome.
"This League will be completely different for Dublin from the last couple of Leagues," he declared.
"They have the All-Ireland now and OK, they will have to build a bit of momentum to retain it. But I don't think when you're All-Ireland champions, you can come out and go fully at it in the first week of February.
"They blooded young Craig Dias the last day. They tried out a new combination in midfield with McConnell and Macauley. That's what I expect to see from them in the first two or three League games. In the last two or three, that's when I think you'll see them at full pelt."
Lyons, of course, will have a foot in both camps on Saturday when the Dubs take their season on the road to Castlebar to take on Mayo. A native of Louisburgh, he was strongly linked with the Mayo job last year and allowed his name to go forward as a candidate to succeed John O'Mahony.
But after being overlooked for James Horan, Lyons decided his time as an inter-county manager had come to an end. "They're building well," he notes. "They had a good result against Laois (winning 1-11 to 0-8 in Portlaoise last weekend) and I think the difference with them now is that they're going with more big men.
"I don't think you can win All-Irelands with small men. You need big, mobile men and I think Mayo are going about that. They found Cillian O'Connor last year. The O'Sheas, Alan Freeman, they're the lads you need."
A productive 2011 saw Mayo reclaim Connacht and beat All-Ireland champions Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final but Lyons didn't see that match as the making of Mayo.
"I keep saying to people that there is a huge difference between getting to an All-Ireland semi-final and winning it," he added, "but I would expect them to be there in the All-Ireland quarter-finals with all the other contenders at the start of August."