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Dubs look to win on good road

YOU could argue, probably without cacophonous opposition, that it doesn't matter how Dublin get on in Derry tomorrow.

That such trips, rarities as they have been during Jim Gavin's reign thus far, don't actually count much towards the development of his team.

That their reaction to strange surroundings and unfamiliar habitat will have no impact in how long their summer lasts, given that every game of importance they will play this year will, barring a wholly improbable early exit in Leinster and subsequent away Qualifier draw, be staged in Croke Park.

Maybe.

But tell Jim Gavin that the rescued draw last year in Donegal, when Paul Mannion kicked a late equaliser to flip the All-Ireland champions out of Division 1, didn't tell him something about the underbelly of his team and their constitution, as well as reinforcing his initial instinct about Mannion and, probably, several other players.

Ditto Pat Gilroy.

An ugly, ugly win in Killarney began a process in 2010 that would turn startled earwigs into All-Ireland champions in just over two years and a more handsome, stylish victory that April in Omagh merely confirmed that his team were heading towards something tangible.

For the record, Gavin has insisted time and again that away games are of greater benefit to him in construction terms.

Firstly, he has more time with his players than is the case prior to games in Croke Park. Travel not only broadens the minds, it seems, but helps forge bonds.

And anyway, Gavin's away League record reads: Played three, won two and drawn one.

True, the most basic of sports science tells us that athletes perform best in the environment in which they are most comfortable, yet the bottom line in all these various arguments is that no one had any great problem with the whereabouts of Dublin's matches until such a time as they started winning All-Irelands.

And Gavin will surely be watching tomorrow to see whether any of his newer recruits have gotten a little too cozy in Croker. Certainly, they didn't look mightily comfortable in Mullingar, even if they eventually got the win.

Surely, for a Dublin footballer, there is no more snug Saturday evening than a joust with Kildare in Croke Park.

Jason Ryan was straight-up afterwards and said he didn't believe his team had a complex about Dublin, but you could sense the world collapsing in on top of them when the All-Ireland champions got a run together.

And only for Darroch Mulhall's brilliant goal before half-time, the scoreline might have been uglier.

The chances of Derry doing same are nil.

Twice, they had the point of Tyrone's sword nestled in at their throats and twice, the got off the hook to eventually draw.

Last week in Páirc Uí Rinn (Cork being statistically the most difficult county for any away team to win in the League) they went 11 points behind and yet still, after losing but just one, felt they were wronged somewhat by a couple of marginal refereeing decisions.

So Dublin should get plenty of it tomorrow and no harm either.

You couldn't fault their attitude against Kildare and perhaps the reason someone like Kevin McManamon was still plugging away hard late on is the realisation that, no matter how well he plays in spurts, only real consistency will ensure a starting stop in the Dublin attack this summer.

That said, it will be a Dublin attack without the classical stylings of one Ciarán Kilkenny and, as such, what Gavin decides to do at centre-forward will be the most revealing selection for the remainder of the spring.

Kilkenny, though he faded somewhat as the summer wore on, excelled at giving early, direct ball into the Dublin full-forward line and, on the face of it, the pathway looks clear now for Alan Brogan to reactivate his inner Trevor Giles.

The injury also means added incentive for the likes of McManamon, Eoghan O'Gara (whose excellent performance last Saturday was lost in the 'Kev Mac' headlines) and Cormac Costello to construct and preserve a sturdy claim on a summer start.

For Derry, Ger O'Kane's selection at centre-back makes them visibly stronger but their attack has managed seven goals thus far in four games and stand just a point off Divisonal top scorers Mayo.

As already stated, they'll give Dublin plenty of it tomorrow but, strange as it sounds, the novelty of League away days might just inspire the champions.

ODDS: Derry 13/8, Draw 15/2, Dublin 8/13

VERDICT: Dublin


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