Sunday 23 July 2017

'Old-school managers would get them batin' each other in training' - Philly McMahon puts Kerry defeat in perspective

Dublin defender insists panic button won’t be pushed after league final ahead of hat-trick bid

Darran O'Sullivan of Kerry is tackled by Philly McMahon of Dublin during the League final
Darran O'Sullivan of Kerry is tackled by Philly McMahon of Dublin during the League final

Michael Verney

Despite the fanfare surrounding Kerry's Division 1 league final defeat of Dublin three weeks ago, Philly McMahon insists the back-to-back All-Ireland winners won't be hitting the panic button and will stick to their tried-and-tested principles ahead of an historic hat-trick bid.

It was only the width of a post that separated the great rivals at the death but with their winning streak coming to an end, and other Sam Maguire contenders taking hope from a potential demise, the gap between champions and challengers seems closer than at any stage during the last two seasons.

The Dubs are far too streetwise to be overreacting to one loss, however, and with Jim Gavin steering the ship, McMahon doesn't expect a radical shift in approach and doesn't question their age-profile or fitness. "It's not the end of the world. We're not thinking that because we lost that game, let's throw everything into this," he said.

"We've been doing it all along. Old-school managers would go, 'We lost. Let's blame fitness and run the legs off these. Or get them batin' each other in training'. It's not about that. If we didn't concede scores and our conversion rate was better, we wouldn't be in this situation. And the positive out of the negative is that we've still got so much more to give.

"So why would we change it? Why would management say, 'Let's change the way our schedule is because we lost that game'. Management are smarter than that. We know as players these little things that we need to be better at. The competition will get higher and higher with the amount of players blooded through the league campaign."

Win, lose or draw, McMahon is always one for critical self-evaluation and an extract from Paul O'Connell's autobiography 'The Battle', where the Munster and Ireland legend regularly "chased his fitness", struck a chord with the Ballymun Kickhams defender.

Wexford hurler Lee Chin, left, and Dublin footballer Philly McMahon at the launch of the John West Féile competitions in Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Wexford hurler Lee Chin, left, and Dublin footballer Philly McMahon at the launch of the John West Féile competitions in Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The 29-year-old is a perfectionist when it comes to his own physical and mental preparation and regardless of the result against Kerry, deep-rooted analysis would have taken place because he constantly wants to outdo his performances from previous years.

"He (O'Connell) had some year that he felt unbelievably fit and for the rest of his career he tried to chase that. I was thinking about that the last couple of months and I'd always love to ask him did he ever think in his head that he was that fit? Instead of chasing it physically, did he ever think he was the fittest?" the two-time All-Star said.

That's where I want to be now. I want to change my mindset to feeling that I'm ahead of where I was last year and then physically that'll all come after that. I want to go the opposite. I don't want to be chasing that same year. I want to be chasing a new year.

"That's probably where he was having a fault in his head, that he was trying to get back to that year but he wasn't playing the same players the following year or the previous years. Everything changes. Who he's playing, who he's marking, tactics, who he's playing with. So if you're trying to chase that, you're not going to get it."

The four-time All-Ireland winner is getting accustomed to people approaching him and commenting that, 'It's great that you've lost', and while the pressure is off, they've "got to act now" and the next five months will go some way to deciding their place among the list of football's greats.

"The most important thing is to get the small things done now. And put them together as a group and see how much we can do individually to get collectively better. I always said that was about… if we lost, that would be a good thing as well, not because we would get this monkey off our back but because we would learn," he said.

"I'm sure there will be a bit more hunger there. That's not to say we weren't hungry. But it's just that… all along I've certainly been saying that the gap is closer than most people say it is. That just showed it."

McMahon questions the validity of any team bar Kerry taking confidence in the end of their unbeaten streak, however, and feels they shouldn't be happy until they do likewise. "If I was a different county, would I be happy that Dublin lost? Not really - unless I was the team that beat them. If I was the Kerry team I'd be saying, 'We beat Dublin'. But other counties that haven't beaten... I don't think it's a good thing for them. They haven't beaten us."

Irish Independent

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