PAT GILROY has resisted all temptation to change a winning team when faced with the ultimate test of Dublin’s All-Ireland credentials - against Tyrone at Croke Park tomorrow (4.0).
The Sky Blue boss has persisted with the same 15 players who started against Armagh, two weeks ago, and then Louth last Saturday.
That means no recall for the likes of Eamonn Fennell, Paul Flynn and Conal Keaney, who started this summer campaign as first team regulars and who all came off the bench during the seven-point win over Louth.
Gilroy’s decision to stick by the formula that has seen Dublin achieve back door redemption is no surprise. All week the indications were that he would name an unchanged line-up for this defining quarter-final showdown with Mickey Harte’s men.
In the process, he has ignored calls from the likes of former Dublin star Declan Darcy who was quoted this morning as saying: “How Conal Keaney can be left off the park is staggering.” Keaney was busy on his introduction against Louth while Flynn was even more influential, having replaced Niall Corkery after 42 minutes.
In fairness to Corkery, he had just put through his most productive championship shift and he has now been retained in his nominal role of wing-forward.
Similarly, management are sticking by the midfield pairing of Michael Darragh Macauley and Ross McConnell to the exclusion of Fennell.
Eoghan O’Gara will also hope to reprise his two-goal heroics from the last day.
Yet it’s clear that this is primarily designed as a team to stymie the Ulster champions and prevent a repeat of the 12-point collapse that Dublin endured against Tyrone two years ago - or the 17-point calamity that was Kerry last August.
That, certainly, is the belief of Mark Davoren who, but for his consecutive cruciate injury nightmares, could well be featuring in O’Gara’s No 14 jersey tomorrow.
“At the start of the year, Leinster wasn’t a priority, he (Gilroy) set out his stall to make sure that we wouldn’t get a collapse like against Tyrone two years ago or Kerry last year. And we won’t know until Saturday now and the big test comes,” Davoren said.
“But it’s going well, I think. A good league campaign, and defensively they’re looking a lot more solid.” Speaking in a video link with the county board’s Hill 16 website, the Kilmacud Crokes clubman added: “Basically what they are doing is the two half-forwards maybe play as extra halfbacks.
Obviously Niall Corkery, from our club, plays that role very well. And then you have Bryan Cullen, who is a defender as well. And then obviously David Henry can come back again. It just makes them very hard to beat.
“I just think that there won’t be a repeat of the hammering of the last couple of years,” Davoren predicted.
“Whether they’ve improved enough to beat Tyrone and Kerry and the likes, I don’t know - but we’ll see on Saturday. “The real thing is to stop the concession of big scores, and then obviously with the forwards they have in there - the two Brogans and the likes - anything can happen. If they kept Tyrone to 12 points, that sort of score, they wouldn’t be too far off.
“Basically it’s Dublin’s All-Ireland final. If they can come out and beat Tyrone, that’s progress and that’s their bottom line. I don’t think All-Irelands are really on their agenda, it’s just progress,” Davoren concluded.
However, Declan Darcy has not been won over by Dublin’s style of play and has urged a return to old values tomorrow. “They’ve been trying to set out the stall to stop big hammerings, but I still think Dublin has a lot of talent, enough talent not to be going in with a negative attitude,” the former Dublin forward was quoted as saying.
“I don’t know whether it’s a media ploy, but I just hope they go out there, play off-the-cuff and have a real go at it. Probably from his own point of view, Pat is getting what he wants out of the team. Personally speaking, it doesn’t sit well with me. They’re not playing like Dublin teams always did through the years.”
Elsewhere, Meath boss Eamon O’Brien has also gone with an unchanged line-up for Sunday’s quarter- final with Leinster rivals Kildare.
DUBLIN (SFC v Tyrone): S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; K Nolan, G Brennan, B Cahill; R McConnell, MD Macauley; N Corkery, A Brogan, B Cullen; D Henry, E O’Gara, B Brogan.