| 3.6°C Dublin

Eugene McGee: Time to panic

I can see a bit of panic setting in within the Dublin football camp before much longer if the team keeps turning on the style like they have done in their opening three league victories against Armagh, Cork and, in particular, Kerry.

Why? Because it will dawn on Pat Gilroy and his players that there is too much praise being heaped on the Dublin team too quickly, and they will have to start talking down their achievements.

You see, this is the GAA way of doing things. All teams and managers play down, in a nice way, their own achievements; terrified, it seems, of having the word 'favourites' attached to them.

Mick O'Dwyer was the past master when it came to dealing with this 'problem' in Kerry's glory days in the 1970s and '80s. He could almost convince us that Kerry could be in serious trouble when facing a team like Clare -- comical when you consider Kerry amassed 9-21 one day against the unfortunate Bannermen of the time.

Gilroy now has to decide if it is time to start a cooling-down process with regard to the capabilities of the Dublin football team.

There is no better crowd than Dublin supporters on Hill 16 to get a bandwagon going when it comes to talking up their county's All-Ireland chances and, with Parnell Park having being abandoned in favour of high-profile televised games at Croke Park under lights, that bandwagon is already on a roll.

And justifiably so too. Not alone have Dublin won their games, but they have also been scoring goals at a rate not seen for over a decade, and this is what really sets the fans alight. Considering half a dozen regulars from last year are still not available to Dublin, the outlook is promising, so throwing some cold water on the hype surrounding Dublin may be on the cards.

There was just as much interest last Saturday night in how Kerry performed, however, and even though they lost to a last-minute point, there is no doubt that no GAA follower will be ignoring Kerry for the rest of the year. Despite all the progress Dublin have made this year, Kerry were just as good as them and it is unlikely that any Kerryman will despair looking ahead to the 2011 championship.

Sure, there are gaps in the Kerry line-up at the moment, with their backs in particular feeling the effects of that on Saturday. And Kerry people all over the world lie awake at night worrying about when they might come up with a successful midfield partnership, with all sorts of experiments being tried out.

On Saturday the midfield was a jungle, with Dublin throwing several extra players into every high-catching situation and, not surprisingly seeing as they are the fitter, sharper players right now, it was Dublin players who collected the breaks time and again.

Kerry have hardly ever won All-Irelands without controlling midfield, so finding a new pairing is now the most urgent requirement for Jack O'Connor.


It was strange to observe on Saturday that both counties resorted to a fundamental style of attacking play based on directing long balls into one or two forwards. Dublin were obsessed with getting the ball to Bernard Brogan, while Kerry constantly aimed for Kieran Donaghy as a funnel to supply Colm Cooper.

Both counties need to expand their attacking options before the championship because, as defenders smarten themselves up fitness-wise, a lot of the forwards who have been getting unlimited freedom in the league will be shut down by fair means or foul by fitter backs in the summer.

Even on Saturday, Dublin constantly crowded out Donaghy as the high ball was on its way and he didn't get a lot of change out of the opposing defenders on that front.

It was wonderful to see the two best forwards in the country, Cooper and Brogan, in action on the Croke Park stage before a live television audience so early in the season and particularly when, as on Saturday, they displayed their extraordinarily high levels of skill.

Cooper scored a few brilliant points in the final quarter as Kerry rallied to draw level, but then Brogan, like all great forwards, was there at the right time to seal the deal by scoring the winning point for his team with panache.

Irish Independent