Lack of games a danger to Dubs' dreams - Pillar
Published 29/06/2011 | 05:00
FORMER Dublin manager Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey believes Dublin are genuine All-Ireland contenders but warned that the fixtures schedule could be their undoing.
Should Dublin beat Wexford in Sunday week's Leinster final, they will have played just once in five weeks by the time the All-Ireland quarter-final comes around on the August Bank Holiday weekend, and Caffrey has first-hand experience of how that can affect a side.
After their successful Leinster campaign of 2008 (when the Dubs also played Wexford in the final), their last eight clash with Tyrone was pushed-back a week to make it a stand-alone fixture in Croke Park.
That meant Dublin went four weeks without a game and Mickey Harte's side, who had played on three consecutive weekends in the back door, were afforded a fortnight to recover.
The Ulster men were miles ahead of Dublin on the day and won with 12 points to spare.
"The one thing that's going to be up for debate is, is it going to be one match in five weeks (if Dublin win Leinster)? And then you could be facing a team coming off a run," said Caffrey.
"It is very hard to prepare a team and have them as sharp as somebody coming at you having had a game two weeks previously.
"While the back door has served the championship well in terms of opening it up and bringing teams back in, it is a huge issue. Is it really fair when a team is getting four weeks without a match?
"You see Galway only making their entrance only last weekend. I think the issue of fixtures should be looked at. It's down to the provincial bodies having the power and one central committee not making all the fixtures and spreading it out a lot more evenly. The system isn't serving everyone equally.
"Cork are No 1 in everybody's eyes. Kerry still have the best six forwards in the game.
"Dublin are knocking very closely behind them. They're the three front-runners as it stands."
Caffrey believes Dublin were "very comfortable" for large parts of the win over Kildare and singled out Rory O'Carroll for special praise.
During Caffrey's tenure, full-back was a problem position for Dublin with Paddy Christie, Barry Cahill, Ross McConnell and Collie Moran all lining out in the No 3 shirt in consecutive Leinster finals from 2005 to '08.
"In four Leinster finals, we played four different guys at full-back so that tells its own story," said Caffrey.
"Rory just looks a natural in there and I think he has just given the whole full-back line great confidence.
"It's remarkable that a guy can miss a whole National League and be away in France for six months and just step back in and look like he has been playing week in, week out. It's a great tribute to him and long may he stay injury-free."
Dublin will be strong favourites to secure their sixth Leinster title in seven years but Caffrey warned that Wexford could cause a number of problems, with Ben Brosnan, Ciaran Lyng and Shane Roche in excellent scoring form.
"You can only judge them on what they have played this year," said the former Blues boss.
"They have been hugely attractive to watch. They have scored very freely and they have a few new faces so obviously, they're going to pose a threat.
"However, Dublin are a different standard from the three teams they have played so far.
"But you just have to respect what Wexford have done and treat them on their merits."