Ex-DUBS boss backs Kickhams' historic bidIT'S 13 years this Sunday since 'Pillar' Caffrey brought Na Fianna to Croke Park for an All-Ireland club final showdown with Crossmaglen Rangers, a missed opportunity to claim national glory for the Glasnevin club.
Now, arguably their greatest Dublin rivals, Ballymun Kickhams have the chance to go one big step further and as an ardent observer, Caffrey feels their big-day fall-back is a finely-honed, tried-and-trusted system of play.
"It is quite a unique day and nerves can get to fellas but Ballymun have played to a set gameplan all year," said the former Dublin manager yesterday in Croke Park.
"They're very disciplined in the roles they play. They have used the same three or four subs in every match they have played so they're quite functional in the way they go about it. They have a nice mix going into it."
Given that they have conceded an average of just over seven points per match in the course their three-game Leinster campaign and the All-Ireland semi-final win over Dr Crokes, it's not surprising for what sector of the 'Mun team Caffrey reserved special praise.
In fact, you have to go back six matches to October 21 when they beat St Jude's in the Dublin SFC semi-final for the last time Ballymun conceded a goal in championship football.
"They just don't concede goals," Caffrey surmised. "When they can still afford to have John Small in the subs, a player who was rated very highly in Dublin football last year and then Seán George, who got sent off in a Cup game and again didn't get straight back into the team ... their set-up is very strong and they adhere to it."
Less than 24 hours previous to Sunday's final is Dublin's latest Croke Park outing against Tyrone, one of four matches at GAA HQ this month for the Dubs and Caffrey – who played all-but-one of his home matches as manager of Dublin in Parnell Park – says Jim Gavin's men do, without question, hold a strong advantage over their rivals as a result.
"We were particularly bad on the road," he surmised of his team's patchy away record. "I think, in the last couple of years, Dublin have had an advantage, whether people like saying it or not. They like playing here in Croke Park. It's an easy venue to get used to.
"The style of play out there suits Dublin's style of play," he added. "Jim has obviously gone for a more expansive style than Pat (Gilroy) went for. And when you see the likes of Jack McCaffrey out there ... he wouldn't be getting that sort of room is these matches were being played in Parnell Park.
"Jonny Cooper, the same. These guys are really suited to playing in Croke Park. They have great speed and great agility. This place also alludes to more goals in games and Dublin have been hitting the back of the net more regularly."
Caffrey, who fielded four different full-backs in four successive Leinster finals, went on to identify current Dublin No 3 Rory O'Carroll as the one player Gavin could not afford to do without, stressing: "I would say at this stage, Rory is probably irreplaceable. He is the one fella who there is probably no fella to step in for him," while he added that on current form, Bernard Brogan is as near as unstoppable as any forward in football.
"All of us that love forward play will be thrilled to see Bernard return to the form of 2010," stated the man who gave Brogan his debut. "He's just been a scoring machine.
"It's not a phrase I like using, because you're only setting someone up, but the games I've seen him in – bar the Kildare game in Parnell Park – he's been actually ummarkable.
"That comes down to the quality of ball but it also comes down to that fact that he is playing very close to goal this year. Which is very different to where he was playing under Pat.
"He is the top man all the time at the edge of the square so he's looking for the danger ball all the time. But he has been sublime out here," Caffrey concluded.