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Wednesday 22 August 2018

Tribesmen to pose first genuine test for Dublin

 

POWERHOUSE: Damien Comer has the running game to ask questions of the Dublin defence at Pearse Stadium
POWERHOUSE: Damien Comer has the running game to ask questions of the Dublin defence at Pearse Stadium

Some will view this as a de facto dead-rubber, with Galway already qualified for the Division 1 decider and Dublin all but guaranteed to join them.

But then you realise that "Jim Gavin" and "meaningless fixtures" never appear in the same sentence. And besides, would it really suit Kevin Walsh (below) to engage in phoney warfare here, with crushing consequences, two weeks out from a final rematch?

So you will still find several layers of intrigue surrounding tomorrow's trip to the seaside.

Perhaps the most pertinent riddle to resolve is this: are Galway the real thing? The best ones to answer that conundrum, invariably, are Dublin. No team is better equipped to test the fibre of a new pretender; more ruthless or relentless in seeking out weakness.

Well-being

But there's another side to this debate: you could make the case that this will be the first serious examination of Dublin's well-being in 2018.

After all, Dublin overwhelmed a Kildare team that had lost twice in the O'Byrne Cup; beat a Tyrone team that had just lost to Galway; defeated a Donegal team that had lost its first two league outings; and did likewise to arch-rivals Mayo and Kerry who had each lost their previous two fixtures. Whereas Galway have kept on winning.

Some will scoff at this notion of a Tribal litmus test; they may have a point. After all, before a ball had been kicked in this Allianz League, newly-promoted Galway were viewed as more likely contenders for demotion than the title.

HUGE LOSS: Cian O’Sullivan has undergone surgery on the shoulder he injured last week and misses out tomorrow
HUGE LOSS: Cian O’Sullivan has undergone surgery on the shoulder he injured last week and misses out tomorrow

Remember, the same county and manager had reached back-to-back All-Ireland quarter-finals only to be ripped apart by Tipperary (2016) and swatted away by Kerry (2017).

How are Galway now different? Our top-flight rookies have won five on the spin. They don't need to shoot the lights out because they're leaking so little: 1-57 is the lowest in the top-flight (eight points less than Dublin's 3-59) and only Fermanagh (with 6-41) and Antrim (with 0-40 from four games) have conceded less.

Cynical

It's fair to surmise that the fingerprints of Paddy Tally, in his first season as part of Walsh's set-up, are all over this new-found frugality. Galway have been harder to breach because (a) the basics have improved (b) they can be cynical when required and (c) they always have the numbers back.

That latter point is crucial, but it has yet to undermine their attacking potential partly because they are blessed with the tools for counter-attack - the thoroughbred speed of Eamonn Brannigan and Shane Walsh, the powerhouse running of Damien Comer.

Dublin's capacity to contain won't be helped by the loss of Cian O'Sullivan (after shoulder surgery) while James McCarthy could be sidelined for the second weekend running.

And yet, this Dublin team always find a way. While the legendary strength in depth at Gavin's disposal is now being tested, its priceless value can be measured in how former fringe players have fitted in seamlessly in recent weeks.

At times, in the first half against Kerry, the defence rode its luck - but then players pressed on the third-quarter accelerator, as they so often do, and left their rivals for dust.

It won't be a 12-point cakewalk here, but they are still the benchmark.

ODDS: Galway 10/3 Draw 9/1 Dublin 3/10

VERDICT: Dublin

  • Allianz FL Div 1 Galway v Dublin Pearse Stad, Tomorow 2.0

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