New-look Dublin can rise to the occasion -- Moran
HOW many reasons are there for Dublin followers to adopt a low-key approach to the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork? The answer is: 15.
Tyrone in the 1995 All-Ireland final was the last time Dublin defeated what is now considered a top-tier side in the championship -- if you take that to mean a team that reaches the Sam Maguire decider.
And from the year 2000 on, that has meant them looking with envious eyes at the dominance of Kerry and Tyrone, with a sprinkling of Galway in 2001, and Armagh in 2002.
Capital of Ireland it may be, but the football capital has been north, south and west of Dublin for a long, long time. If that doesn't buy some humility among Dubs fans and keep expectations to a reasonable level for the August 22 clash with Cork, nothing will.
And now that Pat Gilroy and his new-look side are in uncharted territory, having surpassed expectations, the questions arise.
1: How does Gilroy treat the players in the coming weeks? Does he wind them down or work them hard at high intensity in training?
2: Mentally, how will the players cope with the new adulation and back-slapping from the supporters?
3: Will they get puffed up with pride and at the same time, as the match day draws near, get too nervous and tense about the All-Ireland semi-final label on the match?
And yes, there's the media situation. Cork, Kildare and Down will be under intense focus in the last seven or eight days before the two big games, but, inevitably, Dublin will get the lion's share of the media spotlight.
Intriguing possibilities, but former Dublin captain Collie Moran, who had to retire last year through injury, is confident Gilroy and his back-room team can cope with the pressure.
"It's still a nice position to be in, possibly more so because it wasn't expected," Moran says. "Now that Kerry and Tyrone are gone, the four teams left will all feel they have a chance of winning an All-Ireland, so they will all have to deal with the hype.
"In the past, the problem Dublin had was dealing with the hype and expectations of supporters and the national media. I don't think that will be there to the same extent this year, because Cork will be favourites in most people's eyes.
"Dublin will keep to the same philosophy of hard work in training, and I don't think dealing with the build-up will be a problem to Pat Gilroy.
"Pat is very grounded, and a very level-headed individual. That's the way he expects his team to be as well. He has set out his stall with a simple game plan, which is basically cover for one another and work very hard at tackling around the park," adds Moran.
Winning can, of course, cover up for a multitude of deficiencies and mistakes, but Moran feels the Dubs, particularly the newer players such as Michael Darragh Macauley, Eoghan O'Gara, Michael Fitzsimons and Rory O'Carroll to name a few, have a refreshingly positive attitude.
"The great thing about those guys is that being so young, they don't have any bad memories in their psyche," Moran continues. "They've brought a youthful enthusiasm and honesty to the team and they have no inhibitions. They just go out and play.
"Look at the season so far. They beat Tyrone in the last game in the league at Omagh, they beat Kerry away in the league for the first time since 1982, and they've beaten Tyrone now.
"And yet, most Dublin supporters who followed the team over the course of the National League and early stages of the championship would admit they were surprised at reaching an All-Ireland semi-final.
"Every game they've played since just about getting past Wexford and conceding five goals against Meath, they've been improving as a team, but they probably had a bit of luck as well.
"They got a lucky break with the Eoghan O'Gara goal, when the ball came back off the post. But you have to say that Dublin took their chances when they got them. Any team needs the breaks, but you can make your own luck too. Think back to the Armagh game when Philly McMahon cleared the ball off the line in the last few minutes.
"A goal for Armagh at that stage would have ended Dublin's season right there and then."
And Moran's view of Cork?
"Going through the back door, they've just been doing as much as they had to. They looked comfortable against Wexford and Roscommon.
"They had a scare against Limerick, but I think they felt they had done enough to win that match and just got caught late and had to go into extra-time to win it. I think everybody would feel there's plenty left to come from Cork.
"If Cork want to prove their ability, there's no better occasion than an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin at Croke Park. That would be the ideal time for Cork to show the country what they are capable of."