Perfect time for Gilroy to accentuate the negatives
I am not familiar with Pat Gilroy's reading, listening or viewing habits or, indeed, if he uses anything written, said or screened to illustrate a point to his players. However, if he does, it's more likely that he will revisit excerpts from various media archives in the days following Dublin's defeats by Kerry (2009 All-Ireland quarter-final), Meath (2010 Leinster semi-final) and Cork (2010 All-Ireland semi-final) rather than take anything seriously from the swathes of praise heaped on them since Saturday's spectacular win over Tyrone.
In a week when there have been references to Gilroy's legacy (hell, he hasn't even thought about making his football will yet), discussion on whether Diarmuid Connolly will become Footballer of the Year (many Dublin supporters were querying his value after he was replaced against Kildare and Wexford) and, more generally, if Dublin had launched a new era, the manager will be cautious and apprehensive. Rightly so.
Hype can be mighty corrosive. The impact is not always apparent on the surface but, like hidden rust, it could be inflicting severe damage to key components. The superlatives have cascaded down on Dublin since the win over Tyrone and, no doubt, there are torrents more to come before they play Donegal.
That's how it works. But the honeyed words which tripped of the tongues of TV and radio analysts and steamed from the fingers of the written media will just as easily turn to acidic condemnation if Dublin lose to Donegal: "Typical Dublin. Couldn't handle the pressure. Made the same old mistakes. Believed the rave reviews. Overrated after beating a Tyrone team in decline. Too many players who aren't consistent."
Nor will Gilroy escape blame. He will be accused of failing to control the hype and of not figuring a way around Donegal's defensive systems. The possibility that Donegal, the most improved team of 2011, might beat Dublin for the simple reason that they perform better won't feature in most of the analysis.
No, if Donegal win, it will be attributed to Dublin playing badly and getting the tactics, formation and substitutions wrong. That's what happens every time Dublin lose after making what appears to be a bold statement with an impressive performance.
It's also why Gilroy might profitably spend an evening with tapes and newspaper cuttings from the aftermath of their last three championship defeats. In each case, Dublin were savaged for different reasons. They were accused of being gutless after losing to Kerry in 2009, of being poorly set up after conceding five goals against Meath in last year's Leinster semi-final and of being naïve after surrendering a five-point lead against Cork two months later.
So what's the point of Gilroy reminding his players of those negative days? Because it will show the rollercoaster lives they lead which, in turn, should help them cope.
One of the wisest criteria for assessing sport is this: don't overreact to one brilliant performance or one sloppy effort. Neither can be taken as a dependable guide.
Dublin made very hard work of beating Wexford but were brilliant against Tyrone four weeks later. So which do you regard as their true status?
Just as the sloppy performance in the Leinster final, where the turning point was a Wexford own goal, didn't mean Dublin would be as edgy next time out, last Saturday's swashbuckling dismissal of Tyrone is no guarantee of similar efficiency in the semi-final. To believe otherwise is to ignore history.
Indeed, an argument can be made for suggesting that Dublin's defeat of Tyrone last year was, in some respects, more impressive than last Saturday's. Crucially, Tyrone were much better in 2010 than at any time this year and posed Dublin far more searching questions, which were answered across a wide range of areas -- unlike last Saturday when the wide difference between the sides was clear from early on.
Gilroy has seen enough turbulence in the Dublin markets since his arrival for the 2009 season to realise that an All-Ireland recession will be over only when Sam Maguire is criss-crossing the Liffey, visiting schools and clubs.
The last thing he -- and Dublin -- needs right now is the commentating classes competing with each other in the search for the most glowing commendations. All the more so since Gilroy's counterpart Jim McGuinness can plan quietly and efficiently from outsider land, both in terms of media concentration and the bookies, who are quoting Donegal at 11/4 with Dublin 2/5.
There's no doubt that Dublin gave their supporters a great day out last Saturday.
However, despite the hype loud-hailers, the All-Ireland isn't won yet. Gilroy, most of all, knows that.