Setback may be a blessing -- Keaveney
Published 26/04/2011 | 05:00
Only Dublin could prompt this furore. As Pat Gilroy said after Sunday's game, it comes with the territory when you are the Dublin football team. Everyone has an interest in them, genuine or otherwise.
In the weekend papers, Gilroy and Dublin were hailed widely by the pundits. He had used 31 players and still went unbeaten through seven league games. On Sunday, it was deemed the same bench wasn't good enough to see them home. As ever with the Dubs, the truth is somewhere in the middle. They're never as good or as bad as they're made out to be.
It's not yet a year since a new-look Dublin leaked five goals to Meath in Croke Park. Only nine of that team started on Sunday, a considerable turnaround in personnel in such a short space of time. It's fair to say Dublin have a history of collapses recently, but this particular team doesn't.
"It was a setback but it still augers well for the championship," Dublin legend Jimmy Keaveney insists. "There were a couple of lads missing and I thought when Diarmuid Connolly went off they lost something. He was playing very well and causing Cork trouble."
Amidst the reaction, the bookmakers offer a sobering viewpoint. Dublin were a best price 9/2 for All-Ireland success on Sunday morning and it remains the same now.
They are third favourites for the All-Ireland behind the Rebels and Kerry and that's probably accurate. Money is the only thing that doesn't get emotional.
"What I would worry about is that when we have teams by the throat, we don't squeeze that little bit harder and put them out of the game," Keaveney reflects.
"It's hard to take, losing an eight-point lead, and at that stage you were thinking, 'I hope they don't win by 10 or 12 points' because everyone would have been talking them up for the whole summer then.
"So while it was disappointing, this could be a blessing in disguise. Pat Gilroy and his management team know exactly what they have to work on and they have time to sort it out."
The other factor in all of this is Cork. No one knows more about gut-wrenching defeats over the last few years.
They learned to win games like Sunday's league final the hard way. Kerry schooled them unmercifully for a few years before they finally delivered last year. Once the perennial bridesmaids, now they have a mean edge.
Crossing sports, the Leinster rugby team had a similar reputation.
They were capable of great things on sporadic occasions like the four tries away to Toulouse in 2006, before the hammering by Munster in Lansdowne a couple of weeks later. Now they are among the most feared sides in Europe.
The Dublin team of the 1970s had that too. As Keaveney puts it, bar a "couple of blunders" against Kerry, they knew how to win tight games.
"When we went four or five points up, you were always trying to get the next score just to kill them off completely. I never remember us sitting back on a lead anyway and trying to defend it."
Dublin, it seems, are serving their time and they are finding out a little about themselves along the way.
"You have to ask yourself, is that the team that will start when the championship comes? You have to say that with a couple of fellas still to come back, that it probably isn't," Keaveney says.
"That team might have won an All-Ireland last year and they lost to Cork by a point in the All-Ireland semi-final. The same thing happened on Sunday but Cork are a very, very good team.
"I'm not sure if winning the league was as important for this team as some people were saying. Dublin are still quite capable of winning the All-Ireland."
The loss of footballer of the year Bernard Brogan was huge, as his presence was enough to keep the Cork defence honest.
With experienced players like Paul Griffin returning to fitness, Gilroy has a multitude of options and Dublin's best 15 is hard to nail down with any certainty. Cork had a similar problem a couple of years ago.
"I don't think Dublin are quite sure exactly what their best team is. I'm sure Pat has a good idea when he has everyone available, but there are still a couple of spots there that are up for grabs," Keaveney reasons.
"They played some lovely football at times against a quality, experienced team. They did a lot of good things in the game and they know exactly what they have to work on.
"If they can iron out those problems, they'll be okay. They're quite close."