Tuesday 26 September 2017

Dublin's flair is winning over rest of country – former Dubs manager Tommy Lyons

Former Dublin manager Tommy Lyons
Former Dublin manager Tommy Lyons
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Former Dublin football manager Tommy Lyons envisages Jim Gavin having sleepless nights over his team selection for Sunday's All-Ireland final.

Lyons, who worked with Gavin and one of his selectors Declan Darcy when Dublin won the 2003 All-Ireland U-21 title, believes the Dubs' manager will be agonising over the make-up of his team, with two defenders coming under intense pressure the last day.

Lyons suggested Dublin are "weaker defensively" with Ger Brennan in the team but feels that the way Mayo set up may just suit him. A change in personnel at right corner-back, with Philly McMahon replacing Kevin O'Brien, is something Dublin "might bite the bullet" on, he added.

"It's a very difficult process when you come to an All-Ireland. It's a process I'd say has kept Jim awake at night," Lyons said.

"Ger Brennan has been very good. Everyone knows what Ger brings to the table. Everyone knows what his weakness is. It's a big call by dropping him because you won't be bringing him in. Maybe by starting him (you get the most out of him).

"Mayo aren't going to play a man up on him like Kerry did because Keith Higgins won't play like that so maybe it is set up for them this time," surmised Lyons.

"But I think Dublin are weaker defensively when he is there. He can't get back to the 'D' with sufficient pace," he added. "But then three successive managers have picked him so he has to be doing something right."

Lyons, through his Mayo connections, was James Horan's only challenger for the position when John O'Mahony vacated it three years ago and is convinced this team will win an All-Ireland at some stage in the future. However, he questions whether they have the full-forward in place to deliver it this year.

"I just find it hard to see a team winning an All-Ireland without two inside men who are going to deliver you 2-6 or 2-7 or 0-8 or 0-10. Generally that's what wins you All-Irelands," he said. "All-Irelands have never been won yet without two stand-out inside men. I don't see them in Mayo."

Lyons, speaking at the launch of the FBD Kilmacud Crokes sevens football tournament, expressed concerns over the capacity for Cillian O'Connor to last the match with a troublesome shoulder.

"I just hope they don't start him because it could be another Henry Shefflin (situation). He won't last 10 or 15 minutes."

Lyons feels Dublin are endearing themselves – with their style of play and attitude – to the rest of the country, who are normally hostile to the idea of them winning anything.

"It's making a big difference to Dublin around the country. Normally there are 31 counties against Dublin. There probably will be (31 against) this Sunday again because it's Mayo.

"But they are not as passionate against Dublin. They're not saying, 'I don't want Dublin to win it.' I think everyone is enjoying Dublin because of the style of football they are playing. Everyone is enthused by the style and I think Mayo have brought great flair to the game this year too."

One of only two managers to win a Leinster title with two different counties (Mick O'Dwyer is the other with Laois and Kildare; Lyons won Leinster with Offaly in 1997), Lyons has pinpointed a much-improved Diarmuid Connolly as a driving force behind Dublin's power play this summer.

"The stand-out moment for me (in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry) was when Tomás Ó Sé came up the field here under the Hogan Stand and Diarmuid Connolly was about six yards behind him chasing him and Tomás kicked it, didn't get the score.

"And the minute he kicked it Connolly started to run and (Stephen) Cluxton hit it straight into him, beyond the 70-metre line and he never broke stride to collect it.

"To me it was the best move I have seen this year. People say Connolly won't do this and he won't do that. That is the biggest thing I have ever seen him do on a pitch.

"It's like all really talented players," he added. "It's very hard for them to be up for every day they go out. Some days they're not, maybe, but they're way better than some that we do see there.

"We saw it there against Tyrone there two years ago, he nearly beat them on his own. He is that type of player. What I love about him even when he kicks a wide he goes again. He doesn't put the head down."

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