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Whelan: Dubs can conquer any side

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Former Dublin selector Mickey Whelan. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Former Dublin selector Mickey Whelan. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Former Dublin selector Mickey Whelan. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

MICKEY WHELAN believes Dublin are winning the essential psychological battle necessary to win back-to-back All-Ireland crowns.

He also insisted that recent evidence suggests "this team believes it can beat anybody."

Having engineered an at times awesome 17-point turnaround to beat Cork in Croke Park on Sunday, Dublin now play Derry to retain their league title next Sunday week, an impressive beginning to a season for reigning All-Ireland champions and symptomatic, Whelan feels of a mindset conducive to more success.

"If you're the best team this year, why can't you be the best team next year? So it has to be in the head ... and I think Dublin have it right at the minute," he said.

"Belief is the only thing that really stopped them when they were winning five Leinster championships (between 2005 and 2009). It was in the mind, really. When they got out of Leinster, there was no safety net. So they had to learn how to win with that.

"And the year that we came through the backdoor and were beaten by Cork in the semi-final (2010), that year, they won five games that if they lost, they were out. So that was a great experience for them. They learned how to win under pressure."

Strongest

Whelan, an All-Ireland winner with Dublin in 1958 and '63 and a selector under Pat Gilroy during the 2011 triumph, also stressed that in his opinion, the current team is "the strongest in depth" of any squad he had seen from the capital.

"There are a lot of the team still there that won and broke through in 2011," he continued. "They're there in one form or another. They're either starters or they're there in the training games.

"So all the time, the level of training games they have would be better than most inter-county games they play."

He is not, however, moved by talk that Dublin are a distance out in front of their rivals for this year's All-Ireland.

"They won two All-Irelands by a point," he reasoned. "By a point. Don't get carried away. They'll be talking about breaking up Dublin and doing this and that.

"Did they say anything about breaking up Kilkenny when they won eight All-Irelands out of 10? You just have to take it as it goes. Nobody is getting carried away in Dublin anyway.

"Nobody associated with this team is getting carried away with any of that talk. But this team believes it can beat anybody."

On Diarmuid Connolly, a player Whelan coached at underage, club and county levels, he noted how he has flourished in direct proportion with the greater responsibility with which he has been entrusted.

"Nothing has improved in his game technically," Whelan explained. "He was always very technically gifted. And tactically. He's a smart footballer.

"But he's just matured and developed and grown into the game more and more. The more responsibility he gets, the more he's able to handle.

"He's just getting to grips with what's required. It's just maturing. They're giving him more and more responsibility.

"And they're good shoulders to be placing responsibility on. He's a very good player. He's a good guy to think through things."

Component

Whelan also feels that Eoghan O'Gara, who made his Dublin debut during Whelan's stint as selector and trainer, has become a key component of their attack after a periods of injury and adjustment.

"He was always a very good player. He's very strong and very quick. He played a bit of soccer as well so it probably took him a while to grow into the pace of the whole context of it.

"It's a big change to play in front of 45,000 in every league game. But I mean, I never had a doubt about him."

Similarly, Whelan insists he never feared for Alan Brogan's ability to return to form after such long-term injury.

Indeed, he suspects it could yet elongate Brogan's career.

Asked was he worried for the Former Footballer of the Year, Whelan replied: "No. Would you be worried about the Gooch (finding form) if he gets back?

"Very good players, sometimes a break is actually beneficial for them," he continued.

"Particularly if they have been selected for the Railway Cup and their club are going into county finals and they have no break over a period of it.

"He (Brogan) probably won eight Leinster Championships so there was no real break for him until he got injured.

"The injury was unfortunate but there could be plusses out of it," Whelan concluded. "He should get another couple of years."


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