Caffrey tells Dubs to be ready for begrudgery
DURING his time as Dublin manager, Paul Caffrey's mantra was often "it's 31 against one" in relation to how the rest of the country felt about the capital's football team.
Last September, aided by their underdog status going into the All-Ireland final against Kerry and years of gut-wrenching and often humiliating defeats, Dublin were popular champions but, Caffrey warns, that goodwill has long since dissipated.
"That was a once-off," said Caffrey, who's a Cadbury 'Hero of the Future' judge for the U-21 football championships, launched in Croke Park yesterday. "I would firmly believe that that lasted for about 10 days afterwards and the begrudgery started setting in.
"It's well and truly in full flow now and I just think that Dublin players are going to realise this as the season unfolds. I always felt in my Na Fianna days before we had won a Dublin title, everyone was saying Na Fianna were lovely fellas and once we won one, we were hated.
"It's not a word I use lightly, but there is a different intensity when you're champions. Even if you're provincial champions, the next year it's harder to do it and it's certainly harder to do it as All-Ireland champions."
Dublin have picked up straight red cards in both of their league outings to date, while Pat Gilroy also withdrew Michael Darragh Macauley from the O'Byrne Cup semi-final defeat to Kildare (where Paul Brogan also saw red) because of what he termed "messing".
And, with a hectic schedule of games coming up, Caffrey warned that Dublin will have to maintain their discipline when they play on six consecutive weekends after the confirmation that their clash with Mayo, which was called off last month due to heavy fog, has been rescheduled for March 31.
"Every team they play in the league is going to be up for it physically. Maybe that is why the little bits of indiscipline have been creeping in. I just see some of them not coping as well as they should with the little bit of physicality that is coming at them.
"They've six big weeks ahead of them now in terms of back-to-back league games and you'll see every team upping the ante when it comes to Dublin.
"My fear is just how these guys are going to cope physically with what's coming at them and you have the little lack of discipline and fellas taking swipes back when they're getting hard hits.
"This is going to impact hugely on the mentality in Dublin. The feel-good factor towards Dublin is gone now and it's back to, as I used to say, 31 against Dublin.
"I think Dublin will have the strength in depth to deal with six games back to back and I expect them to be in a league semi-final, but I just hope that some of the main players stay injury free and get a crack at the championship, because it's going to be a very hard going for Dublin this year."
Caffrey joined the growing chorus opposing the idea of formally paying managers, stating it would fundamentally "change the ethos" of the Association and could bring the issue of paying players back on to the agenda.
"I don't understand this talk about payment for managers, because there is no doubt that if it comes in, then payment for players is back on the agenda," he said.
"I'm involved in a big club in Na Fianna and the biggest job we have is to keep the volunteers enthused to go out with our four adult teams and 40 underage teams.
"People enjoy it when involved in a voluntary capacity, but if they thought 'Pillar' Caffrey was getting paid to be senior team manager or county manager, I think it changes the ethos of the game. We should be very proud of what we have and should fight to hold on to it."