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Dubs must keep eye on the ball

WE'LL take an educated guess that Michael Darragh Macauley won't be spending next Saturday evening in front of the box watching the All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay between Mayo and Kerry.

Why? Because he told the press last week that he probably wouldn't watch the first game.

Bubble

It's not so much that the current Footballer of the Year lives in a Sky Blue bubble.

Here, after all, is someone who loves his music and spent the Friday evening before the 2011 All-Ireland final chilling out at a Libertines gig.

Someone who grew up consumed by hoop dreams and who, that same Friday, made a beeline for his childhood idol, Scottie Pippen (pictured), upon spotting the 6'8" former Chicago Bull out and about in Dublin.

So, it's not that Macauley doesn't know how to tune out before switching on for those big match days in Croke Park that keep on coming.

It's just that watching potential All-Ireland final rivals is not the best way to go about it.

Not when there's the small matter of Donegal blocking your path to September.

"If you get wrapped up in that (Mayo/Kerry) result you'll have your eye off the ball - and if you have your eye off the ball, you'll be gone. You won't find yourself in an All-Ireland final," he warns.

Detriment

"We looked past an All-Ireland semi-final before, to our own detriment, so I think lads are smart enough not to do that this year."

The All Star midfielder is alluding to 2012. Dublin were defending champions and hotly fancied to overcome Mayo, only for a calamitous 20-minute period either side of half-time which saw a slender one-point deficit stretch to a 10-point chasm.

Macauley led the defiant comeback, which included a run of eight unanswered points, but Mayo held on to win by three.

That chastening experience is now recalled ahead of Sunday's date with Donegal. Dublin are 1/10 with the bookies. No one expects them to lose. But if the mindset isn't right, or the focus wavers ...

"We were one per cent off the boil and that's all it takes," Macauley stresses.

"That's all it took against Mayo in 2012, one or two lads being slightly off the boil, and it cost us an All-Ireland final where who knows what would have happened."

Attitude

The experience of failing to defend Sam two years ago should - in theory - help Dublin now. The attitude of key players such as Macauley is another positive portent.

This inter-county latecomer, just turned 28, takes nothing for granted and lives by the mantra that "hard work will always beat talent" - yet he never stopped believing, even for that half-decade after minor when the senior call never came. "I always had the highest expectations for myself and you always should," he stresses.

"I always backed myself in everything I did. It's not a cockiness, it's just out of a self-belief thing.

"At the stage when I was on Hill 16, I felt I should be on the pitch. So I was always going to take every opportunity I could, when I did get on the pitch, to really grab that opportunity. I think it's something that has to be done."


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