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'Abramovich' tag a tad rich

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Jim McGuinness, Donegal manager. Allianz Football League Division 2 Final, Donegal v Monaghan, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Jim McGuinness, Donegal manager. Allianz Football League Division 2 Final, Donegal v Monaghan, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Jim McGuinness, Donegal manager. Allianz Football League Division 2 Final, Donegal v Monaghan, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

THE Footballer of the Year talisman of the soon-to-be "greatest team ever" has just been given a curve ball opening question.

Here goes ... what does he make of Jim McGuinness' (pictured) headline-grabbing line, published that very morning, in which he compares Dublin's recent success to the seismic Premier League impact of Roman Abramovich's arrival at Chelsea?

"It's the first I've heard of it, to be honest. I'm not really sure about that," is Michael Darragh Macauley's sceptical reply.

Here's what the Donegal manager is suggesting with his 'Dubramovich' metaphor: that Dublin have taken inter-county football preparation - in terms of sports science, nutrition, strength and conditioning, coaching numbers, training facilities, all-round resources - to an altogether higher, ultra-professional level.

CATCH-UP

And that leaves all the rest, McGuinness's 2012 All-Ireland champions included, basically playing catch-up as the divide becomes "bigger and bigger".

Now, the Donegal manager may have a valid point, or he may be playing mind games of the killing-with-kindness variety ahead of their All-Ireland SFC semi-final with Dublin on Sunday week ... or maybe there's a smidgen of truth in both the above statements.

Macauley, however, doesn't believe that it's no longer a level playing field. If there is a reason for Dublin's recent omnipotence (they are now just two victories away from achieving an historic league and championship 'double double') then successful harvesting of a properly run underage system is probably the key, he surmises.

The irony is that when he joined Pat Gilroy's senior panel in 2010, the county hadn't won an All-Ireland senior title for 15 years yet he expected Dublin to be well ahead of the posse.

Fast-forward four seasons ... Dublin have won two of the last three All-Irelands but Macauley is adamant that they have no scientific edge on the rest.

"From playing college ball, I would have got some insight into a lot of the other counties around the country and, from what I can see, it's very similar," declares the All Star midfielder, speaking at a Cadbury-sponsored promotional event in Dublin.

TECHNIQUES

"When I initially came into the Dublin set-up, I thought we were way past everybody else - but then I realised that everyone shares the same strength and conditioning, shares the same techniques. A lot of the facilities have been a lot better in different counties where we've been. So, to be honest, I wouldn't agree with those comments."

So then, Dublin's 'professional' edge is a myth?

"As regards the facilities and coaches, etc, I think it's pretty much a level playing field - honestly I believe that," Macauley maintains.

"I would know a lot of the lads from different counties and they all have the same gig.

"Look it, Dublin have got their underage structures right over the last while and it's maybe a product of that," he goes on. "It's not really any big secret that we've been successful underage, and those lads are starting to come through now at senior level.

"It's been a long time coming for Dublin but thankfully, at the moment, football is in a healthy place."

A decade has passed since Macauley's county minor days; but he wasn't part of an all-conquering crop and, unlike several of the recent graduates, he had to bide his time before senior promotion. A long time.

He can't comment on the Dublin regime under Paul Caffrey but says Gilroy "brought a level of professionalism which Jim has definitely maintained and probably brought on somewhat. So, the two coaches I've worked under have been excellent and I couldn't fault them at all."

What has changed, he suspects, is the readiness of Dublin's underage stars for rapid elevation to senior.

"I know the players are getting an insight, earlier and earlier, into what it takes to be a senior footballer - and that's the way it should be," he underlines. "In the (soccer) academies over in England, they get brought over at 15 and 16, and they have to see what it takes to become a professional footballer.

"We were coaching young Dublin kids at camps over the last few weeks, and it's good for them to be shown what sort of a commitment is needed at this level - if they want it.

"Being a Dublin footballer isn't for everyone, and no one's going to force you into doing it. But, if these kids do want to pursue their dreams, they have to know that it takes a level of commitment and they are going to have to do certain things to get there.

"I think the earlier they know exactly what's involved, the better. The kids coming through at the moment are coming through much better educated than we were."

KILL

There is, of course, one other positive spin-off from the presence of so many young guns challenging more established All-Ireland 'veterans'.

"We have to go to the well every time we go to a training session," Macauley discloses. "Look, the competition is absolutely disgusting at the moment. It's so tough trying to get a jersey and lads are rightfully trying to kill each other trying to get a jersey."


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