Tuesday 25 October 2016

Siege mentality can be a powerful weapon for Dublin

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30

Former Dublin player and manager Pat Gilroy
Former Dublin player and manager Pat Gilroy

Not long after Dublin secured the 2011 All-Ireland, it was put to Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey that Dublin had pulled off something truly special.

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They weren't just All-Ireland champions but they had managed something that was rare for Dublin - they were popular winners of the Sam Maguire.

After the 'startled earwigs' game against Kerry in 2009, Pat Gilroy's team broke themselves down and started again. The show-time team prioritised function over form. Some of the players Gilroy picked were from left-field but they were dependable types.

Previously they had collapsed when the pressure came on but that gradually changed. That it would be 'good for the GAA if Dublin won an All-Ireland' became a familiar refrain.

In the 2011 final they eyeballed Kerry and after so many years of missing out, Dublin were regarded as deserving winners. Pillar reckoned that sentiment didn't last a fortnight.

"That goodwill was a once-off," he said in early 2012. "I would firmly believe that that lasted for about 10 days afterwards and the begrudgery started setting in.

"It's well and truly in full mode now and I just think that Dublin players are going to realise this as the season unfolds."

It's a view long since held in Dublin. A quote attributed to the late Kevin Heffernan stated that he didn't like when outsiders were complimenting Dublin football because it meant they weren't winning enough.

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see this Dublin team hold similar feelings.

In various media interviews after last Sunday's drawn game, manager Jim Gavin referenced that they'd have to "look at" Mayo's haul of 1-9 from placed balls.

Rather than citing poor work by his side in the tackle, Gavin was more likely referring to what Dublin see as the raw deal they feel they are getting from officials.

That's a frustration that has been slowly building over the course of this season. Last weekend's game went the way of the rest in this championship with Dublin coming down on the wrong side of the free count.

The advantage rule means those stats aren't as accurate as they might have been in the past but it's a notable statistic against a team who have spent most of the summer on the front foot dishing out heavy beatings.

And Diarmuid Connolly's failed appeal will only have served to reinforce any siege mentality in the squad. Given the evidence, Connolly could hardly have expected to be given a reprieve but the same argument was put forward before Kevin Keane got off his red card after striking out at Michael Murphy.

As an indicator of their unhappiness, Dublin have since indicated their intention to take the case as far as the DRA (Disputes Resolution Authority) should last night's appeal to the CAC fail.

Caffrey used to tell his players it was "31 against Dublin".

Whether the sleight is real or imagined, it is a powerful tool in a game that is likely to be decided by fine margins.

Irish Independent

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