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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Records are there to be broken

Expect Gavin's men to enter new territory as struggling Rossies lack the ability to stop Dubs' unbeaten odyssey
Dublin attacker Conor McHugh bursts through Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh, left, and Ronan Shanahan in Tralee. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin attacker Conor McHugh bursts through Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh, left, and Ronan Shanahan in Tralee. Pic: Sportsfile

So as a follow-up to the lions in the Colosseum, we have the lambs to the slaughter.

In League terms, you couldn't have conceived an occasion as perfect as last Saturday in Tralee.

Dublin marching towards the Kingdom with the scent of a League and Championship unbeaten match record in their nostrils, a milestone naturally set by Kerry themselves.

And Kerry, the fallen aristocracy, famished for a win - any sort of a win - against Jim Gavin's Dublin.

If nothing else but to end the crescendo of talk about how they haven't been able to beat Jim Gavin's Dublin before they begin building towards a summer that could, if form holds, finish up with another All-Ireland final against that same bête noire.

Paul Flynn delivered another good cameo. Pic: Sportsfile
Paul Flynn delivered another good cameo. Pic: Sportsfile

Intrigue

What we got was a night befitting the subplots and intrigue.

Inevitably, Kerry employed the logic that if you're not the aggressor against Dublin, it's very easy to become the victim.

They set both a combative tone and the scoring standard and yet Dublin, as has become almost their calling card, reeled Kerry in with the calmest of movement in the most frenetic of circumstances.

And now, this.

Roscommon, pointless in the literal sense of the word, come to a half-empty Croke Park unsure of themselves and brandishing the last flimsy resistance against Dublin breaking that record no-one was particularly aware of until they came so close to going through it.

Almost needless to say, Jim Gavin is the person least captivated with his team's record-breaking.

"We have never looked in the past, never, and we don't intend to do so now," was his curt assessment of what it all means in the wider context of his team's growing greatness.

Perhaps it's the fact that he and his team are so unconcerned by records or milestones or the sort of revenge narratives everyone outside their camp obsesses about that they are in the position they currently occupy.

Similarly, the idea of 'keeping Kerry down' was not something Gavin subscribed to.

"We have never spent any negative energy like that," he insisted.

"It is not part of our make-up. We just want to play our football as best we can, and represent Dublin as best we can."

Really, the only bad news from Tralee was the hamstring injury suffered by John Small.

Coming in a match neither James McCarthy nor Jack McCaffrey travelled to because of injury, the blow further depletes a half-back line that has been an area of consistent strength for Dublin of late.

Optimum

Offset against that was the return to playing of Bernard Brogan and Cian O'Sullivan and another useful cameo from Paul Flynn.

Throw in the expected return of Diarmuid Connolly, the improving form of Conor McHugh and even allowing for Cormac Costello's hamstring injury and Con O'Callaghan's absence through his commitment to Dessie Farrell's Under 21s, Dublin are getting closer to optimum health at just the right time of the year.

The bigger picture here is that a win tonight would not only break the record Gavin doesn't care about, but it would send them to Clones within touching distance of a fifth League final in a row.

And barring the recent initiation of a fairly severe programme of heavy training, Dublin will win tonight.

If there's not nearly the same talk, that's because Roscommon aren't expected to pack much in the way of resistance.

With two games to go, their manager Kevin McStay has already said he wants his team to "go down fighting," which doesn't augur well in the face of what they will encounter in Croke Park this evening, regardless of Dublin's make-up.

ODDS: Dublin 1/20, D raw 20/1, Roscommon 9/1

VERDICT: Dublin

Allianz League div 1: Dublin v Roscommon (Croke Park, Tonight, 7.0, Live Eir)

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