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Back-to-basics policy can help Dubs exploit Kildare weaknesses

I must admit I was amazed when I read some of Mike McGurn's comments in this paper last Sunday. How he could say 'you put Pat Spillane beside the likes of James Kavanagh, Bernard Brogan or Jamie Clarke and they'd blow him away' is just beyond me. I thought I was seeing things.

Jamie Clarke, or any of those mentioned, could be up on Pat Spillane's back and he wouldn't notice. I, more than anyone else, know the merits of Spillane because I marked him in training for over ten years and that man, pound for pound, was as strong as anyone on that Kerry team.

And as well as that, what Mike McGurn must understand is that there are plenty of players who will spend hours in the gym or the weights' room, pumping as much iron as Mister Universe, but when you put them into the field of play they might not be much use when the going gets tough.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the modern game. I enjoy watching it and I know I'd have enjoyed playing it, but every year the bar is raised in some way and some new training trend or fad emerges.

People involved in the game need to realise that when you are raising the bar on the physical side you cannot neglect the mental side. One should not outweigh the other. If you have a very fit operator and he doesn't have the mentality or the right temperament, then you are wasting your time. The player might be physically strong, but he will be mentally weak and getting that balance is vital.

The other thing McGurn must understand is that there are a number of fellas who are naturally strong. Dara ó Cinnéide is the perfect example of this; he didn't have to go near the weights' room, he simply had a natural strength.

Now obviously the likes of Colm Cooper and Mike Frank Russell have a different frame, they are different players, natural kickers of the ball. And I think players of that type need to be carefully managed when it comes to physical training. While it's possible to send them to the gym and build up their strength, I wonder if this knocks the natural edge of them and affects their kicking.

But all that aside I'm really looking forward to today's football, especially Dublin and Kildare. This is going to be a real test for Pat Gilroy's men. They will have picked up some great experience from reaching the league final even though they didn't win it.

Often when you lose a game you can learn a lot more from it. I remember in 2000 we were beaten by Meath in the quarter-final of a National League in Thurles. We leaked three goals in the second half which prompted us to put Seamus Moynihan back into full-back for the championship. If we'd won that game we probably wouldn't have taken so many radical decisions and we would have missed out on having such a great full-back.

So from Dublin's point of view, if they can look back at that game and make the necessary changes, they could do very well today.

In the aftermath of the league, I outlined areas in their defence and in their whole approach to a game of football that needed tweaking.

It's pretty straightforward really: they need to keep their style as simple as possible. The backs need to take one player each, pin him down and mark him; defending collectively does not equate to

defending well. With the way the game is at the moment, you can be pulled all over the place and most full-forward lines are just made up of two players. If I were in charge of Dublin I'd go back to the old style, man-to-man marking.

And this should counteract Kildare. They kicked 35 wides in their opening two games so keeping their conversions low will be easy if you just stick to them. They played their best football at the end of the season last year and don't seem to have much of a momentum going so far this year. Plus, they have just papered over the cracks in midfield.

By bringing Johnny Doyle out there they seem to be admitting that they are struggling in that area. We wouldn't do that in Kerry with Kieran Donaghy.

This is a good opportunity for Dublin to exploit some weaknesses in Kildare's set-up and if they can go back to basics and keep it simple, they should get the job done.

Sunday Indo Sport