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Exhibition stuff but Dublin need to control the hype

Dublin are playing a style of football that makes grown men yearn for their youth and small boys want to tog out when they get home.

Stephen Cluxton is going to have his work cut out for him ahead of Dublin's semi-final clash with Donegal.

The problem confronting the Dublin captain is figuring out how to deal with public euphoria following Dublin's latest landslide win on the march for Sam. He's aware of the dangers posed by those who try to convince him and his team-mates that another Dublin All Ireland triumph is a racing certainty.

On Saturday evening his advice was simple. "Keep them away from the media," he cautioned.

Manager Jim Gavin doesn't share his concern. "It's not a distraction," he said, downplaying the possibility of complacency. "I've witnessed is their mental resolve and their mental strength."

But, having watched Dublin steamroll Laois, Wexford, Meath and Monaghan, the fans are dreaming out loud of a blue September.

Watching Dublin grow into the game on Saturday was like like watching master craftsmen at work.

In any contest, there most important thing is to get the job done successfully. A win is what's required. After that, everything's a bonus.

As Dublin took the temperature of the game for twenty minutes and then set up the free-flowing moves that dismantled Monaghan and destroyed their resolve, I recalled the buzz I once heard my father speak of when basketball's great exhibition team the Harlem Globetrotters came to Ireland in the 1950s. Huge crowds turned out to witness the sort of ball control, athleticism and trickery they couldn't even begin to imagine.

No one's saying this Dublin squad is the greatest ever. But it's certainly the best Dublin side we've seen for years. And, right now, there are just three teams left in the country who might stop us saying they're definitely the best around this year.

The team's resolute group work ethic, the bedrock of the modern game, accommodates individual brilliance. It's this swagger, with its echoes of glorious campaigns of the past, that has captured the public imagination.

In an age when spectators can access any amount of high performance skills and thrills on their TV, laptop or handset, nothing beats the electrical charge experienced when witnessing quicksilver footballing magic in real time.

The devil is in the detail, they say. And the sense of calm authority Dublin displayed in handing Monaghan what shell-shocked manager Malachy O'Rourke called "a harsh lesson", was evident in more than Dublin's power play, fitness levels and marksmanship. For me, three unlikely moments signposted the hidden strengths of this squad.

In the eighth minute, as Bernard Brogan was sliding at speed over the sideline under the Hogan Stand he had the presence of mind to bounce the ball back off his marker for a sideline ball. Unfortunately the sideline kick didn't result in a score, but the initiative displayed an unfussy, phlegmatic spontaneity that confirmed the forward was in complete control.

In the nineteenth minute Monaghan sent in a dangerous high ball from out on the Cusack Stand side. It was a ball that gave everyone time to think. Cluxton commanded the situation and deflected danger as the ball looked like it might slip under the bar. It galvanised his backs.

Early in the second half, Jonny Cooper was felled by a dangerous high tackle but didn't create a fuss. Instead, he was quickly back on his feet looking to press forward. Stirring stuff all round


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