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Mentality to succeed

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Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, celebrates scoring a first half goal against Tyrone. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, celebrates scoring a first half goal against Tyrone. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, celebrates scoring a first half goal against Tyrone. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

WHAT we know about Dublin so far in this, their season-after-the-season-before, is that, at the very least, they have avoided being typecast.

It has become de rigueur for defending All-Ireland champions to tramp from winter into spring, occasionally recalling the football that brought them glory, but more frequently serving as punch bags for those who envy their crown.

Certainly, it is unusual, if not unique, for a group fattened on an All-Ireland winning feast to so quickly display the sort of aggressive desire to resuscitate a lost cause against a strong team armed with a battalion of motivation, as they did with Mayo in Croke Park.

Or on Sunday in Healy Park, with a League semi-final spot to play for and Tyrone coming from a position of almost being lapped in the first half to belatedly catch Dublin, it said much of their underlying ambition that they generated that score, even if Diarmuid Connolly's point owed more to his own individual quality and calm than anything else.

"I think a lot comes down to the history we have had with that team and difficult games we have come through as a unit before," said Michael Darragh Macauley, the strong heart beat of the team, a man who got in on the goalscoring act while the going was good during the first half in Omagh.

"A lot of this team have been together for a while now and we are after coming through All-Ireland finals, semi-finals and quarter-finals and it's all that memory in your bank.

"When you are down in a game, you can either drop your head and say 'this game is beyond us' or else you draw off that mental resolve you have from other games.

"And I suppose that is definitely something we have in this team. And you have to have it, that never-say-die attitude if you want to go anywhere and, particularly, it would have been very easy for us to throw in the towel at a certain point (against Tyrone) and the week before.

HEART

"But in fairness, the lads came back strong and we finished out the game and showed a good bit of heart in doing it."

Asked which of the two ranked as the more satisfying, Macauley replied: "I think (Sunday) was nice, just that we knew we were getting into a semi-final. I suppose a semi-final is where you want to be at this time of the year, so it was definitely nice to get over the line that way, yeah."

Not that Dublin's spring has been perfect or anywhere close to it. Or, indeed, even as smooth and progressive as last year's league.

Their recent performance against Sunday's opponents, Cork, for instance, must rank among close to the lowest of the few bum notes Dublin have sounded since Jim Gavin took over. Or their trip to Derry on the eve of St Patrick's Day, when some of their next-best looked a couple of notches below the level required.

"Over the course of the year, your squad is going to get tested," added Macauley, and that sentiment should ring truer again this weekend if Gavin does leave his U21 contingent out of the senior squad.

"There will be setbacks, there'll always be setbacks during the year and it's all about lads filling the boots. I'm not sure who's going to fill the boots of Jack (McCaffrey) and Cormac Costello and the boys this week. I'm sure whoever does it will be able to do it with a smile on their face and do a good job."

Understandably, Macauley recalls Cork being "a very tough team" from the 1-17 to 0-18 defeat on March 2, but isn't quite sure if their tactical transformation is as acute as it has been made out.

"It's hard to know if it's a completely different style, but there's a lot of different players there that we wouldn't be as used to playing against now, a lot of young guys in there," he said, before identifying the Rebels as "the team to beat this year".

"They've been playing very good football," Macauley added. "They've a huge panel there, some very experienced lads, some new lads coming through that are looking very good. It's going to be an interesting match.

"I know they're after putting Kerry to the sword there by a good few points. We're under absolutely no illusions as to how big a task it is for us.

"Hopefully we'll have a full squad to pick from and hopefully we're able to have a good week's training and try and go out and give them a lash on Sunday. It would be a nice one to settle from the League game just gone," concluded Macauley.


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