O'Brien: Dubs must meet fire with fire
Vital for Rushe and Kelly to boss spine of defence
IN a weird sort of way, it might be to the benefit of Dublin's chances in Thurles this Sunday that Tipperary's most important players lurk down the centre-fold of their attack.
All that pace and movement, all that flair and goal-gluttony is a by-product of 'Bonner' Maher's more agricultural charms; his ability to catch ball, draw men, break tackles and turn over defenders.
He is, in many ways, unique.
A most un-Tipperary, Tipperary forward. And thus his menace presents a whole different spectrum of worries.
Yet the urge for tactical jiggery-pokery is subjugated, according to Maurice O'Brien, by virtue of the fact that Dublin will have their very own talisman lurking within the same vicinity.
"I don't think you can jig your team around," says O'Brien, formerly of Limerick but more recently, Dublin hurling fame.
"He's going to be lining out at centre-forward. And I wouldn't be moving Liam Rushe out of centre-back.
"Now, I'd be putting Liam Rushe out in a one-to-one battle, rather than a 'sit-in' centre-back, which he has been accustomed to play," he outlines.
"I'd certainly have him in a more combative role in straight-up battle with Maher.
"And look, Liam Rushe has the physical presence most players don't have against 'Bonner'.
"If he's under pressure, you also have the option of putting (Stephen) Hiney in there. But certainly, I'd put Rushe against him, man-to-man and try and win that battle straight away.
"If Liam Rushe gets on top, it's a massive boost for Dublin."
And who better, psychologically speaking, to hand the most onerous task a centre-back might face to than the St Pat's, Palmerstown, double All Star?
"I've been reading some of his interviews ever since (the Leinster final) and you can see by the way he's talking in his interviews that he's disgusted by their performance the last day," O'Brien reckons.
"And if there's a talisman that you want to lead the charge, he's the guy to lead it.
"That's probably the biggest battle of the day."
And that's before you get to Seamus Callanan. He has, in Tipp's three Championship matches thus far, scored almost 40 per cent of their tally. Partly, he has benefitted from Maher's exceptional industry and unselfishness and partly, from Lar Cobett's return to form.
But as O'Brien points out: "There's two Seamus Callanans. There's the guy that we've seen in the League every year since he's appeared and there's the Championship guy, who has failed to deliver on countless occasions.
"But he seems to be in the form of his life at the moment. He's after having two very good games in the last two.
"But I was down at the Tipperary/Limerick game and he was one-to-one against Richie McCarthy in a lot of instances.
"Callanan has the height on him, the speed on him, everything. But Richie McCarthy won the battle hands-down.
"You're looking at him facing up against Peter Kelly and Kelly matches up against him much better.All the attributes Seamus Callanan has, Peter Kelly has them in abundance.
"It's a major battle that has to be won. But I think Dublin can definitely win it. We have the players to match their best guys in those two instances.
"And I would be backing Peter Kelly - in the same vain as Liam Rushe. But you do need him to win that battle."
"They're the guys who lead the line. They're going to up their performances. While the back line did reasonably well in the Leinster final, those guys need to up their performances.
"There was a bit of messing around in the back line. But it sets the tone if you win those two battles. And if Dublin are to win, they have to win those two battles."
But not exclusively those two.
Quite what the plan was for Dublin's forwards against Kilkenny is hard to know.
Bottom line is, it didn't work.
An easy fix, says O'Brien.
"Keaney at 10, Sutcliffe at 12 and O'Dwyer at 11 … it'is the best half-forward line in the country," he reckons "And the same three haven't started together in the half-forward line in any game this year.
"They're the best trio. When they're going well, they're the best in the country. I don't see why you wouldn't put them out there in their best positions.
"They're two wing-forward who are the envy of the country. Two ball-winning half-forwards! And we're playing them out of position.
"They've been at full-forward and midfield and moving them here and there. I can't understand it myself.
"Like, if you go down, you go down," O'Brien concludes.
"But you have to put your best foot forward."