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Dubs have too much pedigree and pace to be trapped in a Farney web

JIM GAVIN has won it all during his first 18 months in charge of Dublin ... but he hasn't seen it all. Not yet.

In his first nine championship matches at the helm, not once has he faced a team with such an overtly defensive system as Monaghan's. That is part of the attraction of tonight's second quarter-final at HQ: how will the most attack-minded force in Gaeldom cope with opponents who will set out to clog up space, get in your face, and frustrate?

All things being equal, the All-Ireland champions should survive the initial test of attrition and ultimately thrive because they have too much pace, too much athleticism and simply too much football for Monaghan.

On paper.

Now for a quick government health warning. The recent history of the All-Ireland football championship is littered with examples of seemingly well-positioned holders hitting the wall when few saw it coming.

Frequently, the last-eight juncture has been the graveyard of champions: Kerry against Down in 2010, Cork against Mayo in 2011, Donegal against Mayo last year (albeit that result was widely anticipated, just not the extent of the carnage).

Such has been the recurring nature of this malaise that you'd be foolish to think Dublin can blaze a trail of destruction through this entire All-Ireland series on a par with what we've come to expect in Leinster. And yet, and yet ... it's hard to make any coherent, logical case for a Farney Army ambush this evening.

Part of our scepticism is predicated on the wonderfully relentless demeanour of the Dubs. During their 
three-match Leinster romp they averaged 2-23 per game. They weren't universally brilliant, with underwhelming first halves against Laois and Wexford ... but, once they turned up the heat, scorch marks were left everywhere.

Another reason for Monaghan trepidation: Dublin's form graph is rising. Notwithstanding Meath's surprisingly timorous resistance, the Leinster final was their most consistently compelling display under Gavin thus far.

The other problem for Monaghan resolves around, well, Monaghan. The canny Malachy O'Rourke has maximised the potential of a seasoned group, reflected in Ulster glory last summer and Division Two success last spring.

However, this summer's form graph has been more erratic - promising periods against Tyrone, in the Armagh replay and in bursts against Kildare countered by that surprisingly porous first half against the Lilies, coming after an error-riddled and tactically self-defeating display against Donegal. Moreover, their scoring returns remain well shy of the elite benchmark.

Their 70-minute tally against Kildare - 1-13 - is just above their summer average. They have some of the best, and most feisty, backs in the business but even they will struggle to keep Dublin's array of marquee forwards, starting or otherwise, to such a relatively paltry total. So unless Conor McManus cuts loose or the Dublin defenders succumb to heedless fouling on a grand scale, Monaghan will be playing a desperate game of catch-up.

In that scenario, physical and mental fatigue after the sodden extra-time exertions of last weekend could turn this mountainous task into Everest.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Dublin 1/16, Draw 18/1, Monaghan 8/1

VERDICT: Dublin

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, J Cooper, N Devereux; MD Maaculey, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn, K McManamon, D Connolly; A Brogan, E O'Gara, B Brogan.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; C Boyle, D Wylie, C Walshe; D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly; D Clerkin, D Hughes; P McKenna, P Finlay, K Hughes; T Kerr, C McGuinness, C McManus.


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