Monday 26 June 2017

Trying to settle scores can be a distraction, warns Dubs legend O'Leary

Seventy consecutive championship starts between the posts meant O’Leary had a front-row seat in the house for nearly two decades
Seventy consecutive championship starts between the posts meant O’Leary had a front-row seat in the house for nearly two decades
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Over the course of a record-breaking career, John O'Leary got to see most things.

Seventy consecutive championship starts between the posts meant O'Leary had a front-row seat in the house for nearly two decades. He tasted the highs and the lows. And when it comes to replays, he knows there are plenty of pitfalls.

O'Leary can recall the games with Meath in 1991 and the replay with Mayo in 1985. Familiarity bred contempt in those situations. In the drawn semi-final in '85, Mayo's John Finn had his jaw broken as the men from the West charged hard at the Dubs and it added a spice to the replay. Against Meath too, there was a edge to things.

That can add to a game but, in O'Leary's experience, it can prove to be more of a hindrance and he reckons that anyone trying to settle scores in this weekend's replay will be distracted from their real job.

"I remember the four games in '91 and the replay against Mayo," he said. "They were tough games. The John Finn incident that time. It probably added to it more. Maybe it was a bigger thing for Mayo than us at that stage.

"But if you have lads going around trying to settle scores, it can be a distraction. You could spend your day hoping to come across someone and then the whole day will just pass you by. There could be a bit of that going on again."

As it happened, Dublin were much better for their replay in 1985 and won pulling up. In that case, O'Leary felt their experience of having won an All-Ireland semi-final replay in 1983 stood to them. That, however, doesn't apply this time around.

"Mayo had a replay last year and they'll know what this is about but the two teams know each other so well I don't think it will be an advantage. It's the same as it was last week."

As O'Leary sees it, Dublin have more scope for improvement from last Sunday. Even if Diarmuid Connolly doesn't play, he reckons they can cope on the basis that the St Vincent's man didn't contribute as much as previous matches. Stephen Cluxton will be better too.

"Whatever about (Cluxton) missing frees, free-takers will miss them. He had a couple of hairy moments and he was saved by (John Small) for one of them. I just think he made a mistake by taking a couple of kick-outs too quickly. He was almost feeding the momentum they had. It was a poor day by the high standards he has set for himself."

Irish Independent

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