Wednesday 28 June 2017

Dubs can't afford to give up on league - Cosgrove

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Abandoning this year's league to concentrate on their three-in-a-row All-Ireland bid - as suggested by Meath legend Colm O'Rourke - isn't an option for Dublin, according to former attacker Ray Cosgrove.

Such is the competition within Jim Gavin's talent-laden squad, as evidenced by their "third-string" side claiming O'Byrne Cup honours last Sunday, Cosgrove believes there's little chance of their foot coming off the throttle this spring.

However, the 2002 All-Star attacker does feel they would benefit from losing their 29-game unbeaten streak in league and championship sooner rather than later. Chasing five league titles in succession is an extraordinary achievement but after holidaying in Jamaica, and giving players "a good rest", he expects them to be undercooked in the opening rounds of the league.

"If they take a defeat early doors and get the train back on tracks for the latter stages of the league and if they got into a final Jim would be happy enough with that. The ultimate goal is three in a row," Cosgrove said.

Success will be "judged on August and September" but Cosgrove disagrees with O'Rourke's notion that "no man, animal or engine could keep going as long as this group have been on the road, clocking up miles, games, injuries and trophies".

O'Rourke felt their gung-ho attitude to the league took the "edge off them" last summer but Cosgrove expects Gavin to "rejuvenate" a trophy-hungry squad and keep players continuously looking over their shoulder.

"They want to get as many medals in their pocket as they possibly can. Fellas will be vying for championship spots. We saw what happened last year, there was three lads dropped for the final so fellas will need to get into a jersey and stay in it if they want to be selected come the first round of the championship," Cosgrove said.

"The window of opportunity for winning trophies is small. This group of players will not be allowed clap themselves on the back. Anyone's form that dips or anyone who isn't putting in the work in the gym or on the training pitch, they'll be sitting up in the stand.

"And Jim will go with a fella that's in form, and if that means that someone who hasn't got the headlines over the last couple of years is doing the business then he'll be given a fair crack of the whip, no doubt."

Pressure

But even with "the strongest Dublin panel in 30 years", and 2015 Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey back in tow, there will be enormous pressure around the capital as the Dubs bid to become the first three-in-a-row winners since Kerry in 1984-'86.

"Even psychologically, trying to get them to peak, week in, week out, because the pressure that comes with wearing that blue jersey is massive, especially when you're a successful," the Kilmacud Crokes clubman said.

"The media will look for a little chink in the armour to be thinking, 'Is this the end of the road?' to start writing them off. But they're a very motivated group of players. And Jim won't let them stand still, if they're not producing the goods they'll be looking over their shoulder, there'll be somebody there to take the jersey."

The future of club-mate Rory O'Carroll, who left the Dublin fold last year and has opted out again for 2017 as he travels abroad, is up in the air with Cosgrove doubting whether the two-time All-Star will make an inter-county return with three All-Ireland medals already "in his arse pocket".

"He's still a young guy but it's a big ask to step out of inter-county football for two years. And you have able bodies stepping in like Mick Fitzsimons coming in for the All-Ireland final replay and putting in a man of the match performance," he said. "Has he the ability to get back into it? Yes he does, but it might take a good long winter next year to get a run in the team before he breaks back into it, with Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon back there as well.

"Does he have the motivation and the drive when he comes back? You don't know what will drive Rory on when he comes back. It's not a given just because he's won All-Ireland medals that he'll be an automatic choice."

Irish Independent

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