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Big ask topop Cork

NOBODY said it would be easy ...

Reclaiming Sam Maguire is a pursuit fraught with all kinds of perils but Pat Gilroy might have been forgiven for presuming performances like last Saturday's Castlebar horror show wouldn't be one of the features of their year.

In the grand scheme of managerial thought processes, where do you even start to analyse that one?

Kick outs? Destroyed. Work rate/ hunger/intensity? Outplayed.

Finishing? Outclassed. Playing smart? Never even got off the starting blocks.

Being the pragmatist he so clearly is, Gilroy has gone for the wholly sensible theory that doing something is much better than doing nothing and wiped last week's team sheet and, most likely, their entire tactical make-up since the turn of the year.

If such a move might seem radical and a little too much like hinting at desperation, Gilroy, at least, has previous here.

Not that one League match in March should be taken as representative of where exactly his team lie at the moment. Or, indeed, that the result and performance are anything approaching the sort of watershed moment which the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final proved.

But there are, in Gilroy's actions at least, similarities.

Remember Killarney in 2010? Dublin went down for their first competitive match since the unmerciful hiding of the previous August, looking on the surface as young, hallow and lacking in both experience and class.

They came away with an unexpected two-point win, one which laid the foundation for a far more consistent spring than Dublin had had in quite a while.

And some of the features of that selection are almost identical.

On that day, David Henry wore number 13 but swept effectively in front of his own full-back line. Tomorrow, Craig Dias takes that particular shirt and one would imagine, a similar role.

Alan Hubbard was one of Gilroy's wing-forwards that day and buzzed around Killarney to telling effect and you couldn't but surmise that his clubmate, Davy Byrne's posting on the wing is designed to reap the same sort of benefits.

Notably (and again, this one has echoes of Killarney in 2010) Dublin only have two recognised scorers on the pitch tomorrow, so the work rate and accuracy of Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon must be at a level not seen by the Dubs outside Croke Park in quite some time.

But Gilroy will be hoping that Bryan Cullen and a re-posted Michael Darragh Macauley can add something to that sector, too.

Macauley's role is an interesting one if, indeed, he does line out at centre-forward. His thrusting bursts from the middle have been one of the most effective methods of attack from Dublin this spring and, presumably, a slightly more advanced positioning would only enhance that threat, particularly against a Cork side now widely regarded as the most physical and direct in the country.

For all of Gilroy's insistence that Dublin go back to their hard-working model of 2010 and 2011 this week, there isn't very much hard work will accomplish if his team get wiped on their own kick-outs just as they contrived to do in Castlebar a week ago.

Michael Savage has been tested already in this League, but such is the accuracy of Stephen Cluxton's restarts, it's unlikely that a change of personnel -- rather than a complete tactical rethink -- will improve Dublin's figures dramatically in that sector.

Expect Dublin to get more men behind the ball than we have seen in some time, but with so many half-forwards naturally inclined to the defensive side of the game, perhaps there is scope for the likes of Kevin Nolan, James McCarthy and Johnny Cooper to pour forward to a greater extent than a Gilroy half-back line have collectively done in the past.

Cork, though, are big, belligerent and consistent at home and even if Dublin seem to be going for a low-scoring, tight victory, history, form and recent evidence all scream a Cork win.

ODDS: Cork 4/7, Draw 15/2, Dublin 7/4

VERDICT: Cork


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