Hard calls for Gilroy as business end approaches
WITH another August looming, Dublin football finds itself dealing with a familiar issue -- do you play the man in form or play the potential match-winner?
There are a few players in the Dublin squad that fall into these categories, though thankfully Pat Gilroy and his management team have a full fortnight to find the right mix. Ultimately, they have two questions to answer: what is their best starting 15, and where should they be deployed?
Gilroy has a big call to make with his St Vincent's clubmate Diarmuid Connolly. There is no doubting Connolly's talent or attitude but the ball hasn't broken for him in recent games. Gilroy could be tempted to shift him out to the half-forward line or gamble and leave him inside where is capable of making hay.
Midfield is another issue. I think the best pairing here is Ross McConnell and Barry Cahill, and the latter must be disappointed at his lack of game time recently. But between those two, they give you the right mix of footballing ability, mobility and power.
What Gilroy wouldn't do to have a fit and well Ciaran Whelan to call on. It's unlikely that Whelan would come out of retirement, but stranger things have happened.
There's a dangerous theory doing the rounds that Dublin beat Wexford in second gear. I don't buy into this for one second. In fact, there was little to suggest they could have found the answers had Wexford asked more questions. Wexford outscored Dublin by two points to one in the final seven or eight minutes and created another handful of chances that could have turned the screw.
But it's important to remember that there are a lot of things right about this Dublin side. Stephen Cluxton is set in stone as goalkeeper and the full-back line looks pretty settled with the possible exception of Philly McMahon replacing Paul Conlon. Conlon has hardly put a foot wrong but McMahon has proved himself adept at popping up with a point or two in the past.
The half-back line has done okay. People have said that Ger Brennan isn't at the top of his game but having played centre-back myself, I know that a lot of defending is about what's acutally in front of you and that comes back to Dublin's stuttering midfield.
The decision on who starts in the full-forward line could have a knock-on effect on the half-forwards, though one of the most pleasing aspects from the Leinster final was that nine players scored when Bernard Brogan had a rare off day.
Last year, that would have been close to unimaginable, but others are making themselves counted in this regard.
Here's a thought. Could Conal Keaney be recalled to the squad were the worst to happen to the hurlers against Limerick next week? He'd be a serious option to bring off the bench.
In all, there are probably three or four places up for grabs. Gilroy has shown before that he isn't afraid to make the hard calls and he'll have to do that now that we're into the second championship of the summer.
Dublin found the answers in Leinster but they could quite easily find themselves playing someone like Tyrone or Cork in the last eight in a couple of weeks.
Certain teams have shown themselves to be very capable of picking up momentum through the back door. They will pose a totally different set of questions and will be a lot less forgiving of any concentration lapses.
I still feel it's a very open championship. Cork and Kerry are the market leaders but they both showed weaknesses in the Munster final at different stages.
It all leaves Dublin nicely positioned. They haven't set the world on fire and know that they have a mountain of work to do if they are to be playing football well into September but if -- and it's a considerable 'if' -- they get the balance right, they can live with anyone who is left in the draw. It's a case of a lot done, more to do for the Dubs.