Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 19 February 2018

Gilroy keeps focus on bigger picture

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

For Mickey Harte, it's a game "too important" to lose; for Pat Gilroy, it's not important enough to get too worked up about.

The Dublin manager was dismissive about the greater consequences of losing a third successive league game yesterday, sticking rigidly to his stated policy of exposing as many members of his squad as possible to prime action over the last two months.

So as Harte and Tyrone prepare to scrap for their Division 1 lives in Omagh on Sunday, the teasing prospect of a first league final in 11 years is not something Dublin will be pursuing with any additional vigour. At least that's the official line anyway.

"We weren't getting too excited about winning the four games and we're not going to get too upset about losing the two (Cork and Galway). Whatever happens on Sunday happens. Then it's into the championship mode anyway," said Gilroy.


"It's not the be all and end all for us. If we happen to fall into the final, that's fine, but we've said all along that the league was about us needing to try things out. We've made a number of changes. A lot of new guys have got a chance during the league.

"We've now started about 25 different players in all the games. I think most teams have done that to be fair. It's important that we do it and we've held our own in the league which is great."

The addition of Ross O'Carroll, Denis Bastick and Niall Corkery will bring the numbers Dublin have used in the league to 34, provided they start as selected. O'Carroll is, however, a slight doubt but Bastick and Corkery have done enough in recent weeks to show that injury is now behind them.

The selection of three players for their first league outing, in what is arguably Dublin's most important game, does raise questions about their real intent this weekend.

Is now the time to be unveiling so many for the first competitive games when there is so much at stake? "It's not to say the guys we've left out were doing anything particularly badly, but it was important to see some of these fellas in the National League as well," said Gilroy.

Admittedly, the core of Gilroy's Dublin teams have remained the same and despite being whipped off in his last four games, the loyalty to Eamon Fennell remains unyielding. For the seventh consecutive game, he has been selected to start along side Ross McConnell.

Cian O'Sullivan, Philip McMahon, Alan Hubbard, David Henry and Kevin McManamon have also been listed to start their seventh league matches which is a level of consistent selection that is about the norm for other top-flight teams.

Bernard Brogan and Michael McAuley have figured in all the games, while Paul Conlon and Paul Flynn will feature in their sixth game on Sunday.

Gilroy is happy to acknowledge that the gap between Dublin and the top three teams (Kerry, Cork and Tyrone) still exists, but believes it may be closing on the back of the solid defensive record they have enjoyed in this campaign.

"Tyrone are favourites because they're probably a better team than we are, given their track record over the last seven or eight years," he said. "We feel that maybe during the league with some of the things we've done, that we've maybe closed that gap a bit. But I would expect that Tyrone -- given the fact that they are fighting relegation and also because of the team that they are -- would have to be hot favourites to win this game.

"The one thing that we have done is that we haven't conceded as many scores as we did last year. In most games last year we were conceding over 20 scores in a game. We had only one game where we came even close to that this year.

"We have to sort out getting some scores down the other end. We've started to do that a little bit better in the last couple of games but came out the wrong side of the result. But I would have to be happy with the effort and we haven't had one of those games where we've had a complete nightmare."

Gilroy remains adamant that finding a defensive system they are comfortable with remains their priority, given the disasters they have had in successive All-Ireland quarter-finals.

"It wouldn't take a genius to work out that we conceded far too much in the last two quarter-finals, so the first thing we need to sort out is how we defend. At times we've done that very well in the league and at times we've overdone it and looked like we couldn't get out of our own half," he said. "But there's times when we've played well defensively and that's really one of the things we wanted to concentrate on. I think attacking-wise we need to bring that to the party now as the summer wears on."

Meanwhile, Bryan Cullen's season is in jeopardy after Gilroy confirmed that his back injury is much worse than initially feared. Gilroy revealed that Cullen was visiting "a number of specialists" and would know more in the next couple of weeks but surgery is now a real option if a prolonged spell of rest does not work. Cullen has not figured in the league to date.

Irish Independent

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