Paul Curran: Streetwise Dublin could make it a very long afternoon for Kildare
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Dublin are back at it next weekend in the semi-final of the provincial championship, where they will face a Kildare team who must be feeling very good about themselves this week.
It all looked to be ending in tears for them a couple of weeks ago when they trailed Laois by three points late in the game and were playing against a very strong breeze but they somehow managed to kick the important scores and set up a reply which they won very easily.
I have always maintained that Kildare have always had quality players but for some reason they never seem to do it when it matters most. They have always been committed and individually, they are very good. But they never seem to be able to score enough and that has always held them back.
They create enough chances in games but a lack of composure in front of goals has been their Achilles heel for many years and based on their league form that problem hasn’t gone away and is unlikely to change for this game.
Dublin on the other hand have a group of forwards who are as good as any we have had over the years. On their day, the likes of Connolly, Flynn, McManamon, Kilkenny and the two Brogans are all match-winners and aren’t afraid to go for the jugular when given half a chance.
Jim Gavin has a terrific squad of players at his disposal and the competition is such that every player needs to keep working hard or risk losing out and that is a very healthy position to be in.
There are a number of new players also pushing into his plans over the last couple of seasons and there are also players making their way back to full fitness after going under the knife at the beginning of the year.
Midfield is going to be crucial on Sunday and Dublin have a lot of options including Denis Bastick, Cian O’Sullivan, Brian Fenton and of course Michael D. I don’t see Kildare getting enough possession in this area to cause too many problems for the Dublin defence.
This game will bring a big crowd to Croker and I think Dublin are just too streetwise for this Kildare team. I expect them to create a lot of goal chances, as they usually do, and if they can up the conversion percentage it may turn out to be a long day for the men in white.
There is no such thing as a dead certainty in sport, although this year’s championship games have gone to form. That was until Saturday, when two underdogs caused minor shocks in the Connacht Championship and the All-Ireland series respectively.
Sligo are a team that who have always deserved respect especially at home in Markievicz Park and they thoroughly deserved their victory over a very disappointing and flat Roscommon outfit.
Whether or not the Roscommon players took their eye off the ball for this one is hard to imagine but they will be bitterly disappointed not to make the provincial final having got the handy side of the draw.
Sligo were well prepared and were up for the game. They would have also felt that they had a great chance to make it to the final when the draw was made last year and they can now look forward to another big day our in four week’s time.
It is hard to see them beating Mayo but they are a hard team to beat when they are in the mood and if they can stay with Mayo deep into the second half I would give them a chance of causing another upset.
Laois also suffered defeat on Saturday and can pack away the inter-county boots for another year. It is hard to believe that they are out of the competition already, having looked very good for periods against Kildare in their opening game.
They really should be preparing for a crack at the Dubs next weekend but in the space of a few weeks they have somehow managed to implode and it will be 2016 when we see them again.
That for me is the problem with the present format. We have yet to see July and teams are finished until next season. The next game they will play will be a meaningless game in the O’Byrne Cup in over six months from now.
How can a manager develop a style of play or build a team when they realistically only get the players for two or three important games every season? It is simply impossible to achieve anything for most of the teams who find themselves with no more games to play.
The sooner things change the better for the general health of the game.
That is in no way taking away from two great victories for Sligo and Antrim and they will arrive back at training tomorrow night with a renewed confidence and will give it everything over the next couple of weeks to remain in the championship.
I suppose the tops teams will have seen both results and it will act as a gentle reminder that no team should be taken for granted no matter who they are or what league position they may be currently in.