Here is the only team that can beat Jim Gavin's men right now....the alternative Dublin XV
DISILLUSIONED Mayo fans leaving Croke Park on Saturday night might well have asked: “Is there anyone who can beat that Dublin team?”
Well, we’ve just unearthed a possible answer ...
This team contains two Footballers of the Year, one of whom is also a four-time All Star. Six of the side have received one or more All Stars.
Eight have started an All-Ireland senior final for the triumphant team. Another has delivered a priceless All-Ireland cameo off the bench.
Beyond those nine, three more are All-Ireland club medallists. One was the scoring inspiration behind a victorious Leinster U21 campaign.
But is it conceivable that the Sky Blue collective that steamrolled an admittedly ramshackle Mayo - by 12 points - will fall prey to our crack outfit? In a word ... no.
It won’t happen because it can’t. And it can’t because they’re all Dublin footballers.
The Alternative Dubs - detailed in our graphic above right - incorporates 15 potential starters who didn’t feature for Jim Gavin, either from the throw-in or off the bench, during last Saturday’s Allianz League mistmatch.
The overwhelming majority are on this year’s senior squad ... Kevin O’Brien, an All-Ireland SFC medallist in 2013, is seemingly the only one currently not involved.
Some of his putative teammates are currently injured. Others have yet to make their playing return in 2017.
But if all 15 were match-fit, they would push last weekend’s Dublin ‘15’ a whole lot closer than Mayo. Measure them up, man for man, and they might even be the ones to end Dublin’s record-threatening 33-match unbeaten run.
But that can only happen in an ‘A versus B’ game, the results of which are never recorded by the historians.
Our alternative defence, on paper at least, looks more than a match for the six that completely shut out Mayo.
It includes current All Star full-back Jonny Cooper and a trio of former All Stars across the half-back line - James McCarthy, Cian O’Sullivan and Jack McCaffrey, the 2015 Footballer of the Year.
O’Sullivan has yet to make his seasonal Sky Blue return but could be seen taking part in the pre-match warm-up on Saturday night. Cooper, McCarthy and McCaffrey were all ruled out through injury.
All things being equal, this marquee quartet would be expected to start in Gavin’s championship defence ... but who would you drop based on the most recent evidence?
Not a single Mayo forward scored from play against a Dublin defence that included official Man of the Match Philly McMahon, our ‘MoM’ choice Michael Fitzsimons and, in the half-back line, Eric Lowndes having arguably his best ever game for the seniors.
Admittedly, our midfield pairing of young and old - Naomh Mearnóg’s Shane Carthy and Denis Bastick - might struggle to suppress the towering influence of Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley in their marauding weekend form.
But they still provide a viable combination of athleticism and experience, one that could hold its own against many rivals. They could also rely on the brilliant counter-attacking back-up of Messrs McCarthy, O’Sullivan and McCaffrey.
On that basis, it’s reasonable to expect that Diarmuid Connolly, flanked by Colm Basquel and Cormac Costello, will keep the supply lines open to a deadly inside trio of Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan and Bernard Brogan (our four-time All Star and 2010 Footballer of the Year).
Most managers would die for that attacking sextet. Yet without them, and while having the luxury of introducing Paddy Andrews, Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon off the bench, Gavin won a league match against one of his chief rivals by 12 points.
Says it all.