Charlie Redmond: 'Starting Connolly could be the major Jim Gavin curveball to upset Kerry's defensive plans'
I’ll be astonished if Dublin come out for next Saturday's All-Ireland football final with the same XV that started last Sunday’s draw against Kerry.
And I'll be just as astonished if the subs bench is the same, too.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin just doesn't do sentiment.
He will look at Dublin players who didn't do well against the Kingdom a week ago. And he will look to make changes.
The manager will look at himself too. How can he make the Dublin team better? How can he get them to play better?
Jim made a major move immediately after the match when he would not allow the brilliant Jack McCaffrey to receive his Man of the Match gong in public.
It was a severe statement from Dublin's leader that what he had witnessed during the All-Ireland final from the team was not acceptable.
It wasn't a rebuke to Jack personally, but a message to all of the team: 'you needn't think you are getting any praise for that.'
For all that, for all the disappointment of not nailing down the five-in-a-row, I’m going to go out on a limb here.
To my mind, the last 12 minutes of the drawn game, from the 66th minute to the final whistle in the 78th minute, was the greatest dozen minutes of football that this mighty Dublin team has ever played.
Yes, better than the second half burst against Mayo last month.
Because in the closing stages last Sunday afternoon, Dublin players stood up and were counted like never before.
Having played for 31 minutes short a man, they turned around an All-Ireland final in which Kerry were leading by a point and had all the momentum — creating six Dublin scoring chances to Kerry’s none.
It was an awesome effort in which the sky blue shirts seemed to swarm around the green and gold.
You would have thought that Dublin had about two men extra on the pitch.
The team simply refused to lie down and submit to defeat.
Some people have criticised Brian Howard and Diarmuid Connolly for taking on those long-range stabs at points.
I disagree vehemently. They were right to have a go – they were just inches out.
And God only knows how inaccurate Cormac Costello was, it can only have been a fraction of an inch for Hawkeye to say No!
If the Dubs don't win next Saturday night, it will be a long winter spent rueing those missed shots for points.
But you'll never hear a word of criticism from me for any of the players who took them on.
I wrote here last week that Kerry would turn up locked and loaded for a tilt at an All-Ireland –and they did.
I expect more of the same from them on Saturday, perhaps even more again.
Now that some of their younger players have vital experience of All-Ireland final day and all the bells and whistles that it entails, they’ll be ready to go.
Kerry got so much right.
They won midfield, their backs shut down some of Dublin’s best forwards and they got 1-2 off their bench, a bench that had a much bigger impact than Dublin's highly-vaunted replacements list.
So what are the changes that I think Dublin will make?
Well, would James McCarthy move to midfield at Michael Darragh Macauley's expense?
That would get James into the game and allow MDMA to offer a bit of 'oomph' and impact from that bench, when he could bring his power and pace to bear in the second half.
So who would play at centre back? Cian O’Sullivan, if he's fit, or there’s Jonny Cooper or John Small.
Indeed, selecting Small would allow Eoin Murchan to start at wing-back.
A Dublin team playing badly still hurt Kerry last Sunday with their speed. Exhibit A – Jack McCaffrey.
Murchan is just as fast as Jack and made an impact when he came on as a blood sub.
And for that same quality of speed, I'd like to see Eric Lowndes as part of the Dublin 26 next Saturday.
He could have been an option for Jim Gavin last Sunday, to run at Kerry, but Jim didn't name him.
And what about a change in the forwards? Murchan is an option for a place in the forward line, bringing his defender’s instinct to tracking back.
But also to allow the Na Fianna man to run at Kerry’s back-line when he sees the opportunity.
Jim Gavin could also just simply start off with Connolly.
Yes, he wouldn't have the fitness to go for all the 70 minutes, but it would be a major curveball that would upset Kerry's defensive plans.
'Dermo' would simply have to have a man-marker! One of those players detailed to curtail Con O'Callaghan or Paul Mannion might have to be moved.
Kerry boss Peter Keane got so much right last Sunday, but he could not take the gamble of letting Connolly run loose for 25 minutes.
He'd have to put one of his very best defenders on the St Vincent's man.
And the last thing that might well be done differently for the replay is that Bernard Brogan should be a sub.
Just as there wouldn't be a full match in Connolly by starting him, there is also the option of a game changer in the final 15 minutes of the match in Bernard.
Is there any other player you would want on the ball when it comes to taking a chance for a point at the end?
So much went wrong for Dublin in the draw – and they didn't lose.
They will get a lot more right next Saturday – and they will win.
Thanks to everyone
On a personal note, I would like to take this chance to thank all those people who contacted me, from all over Ireland, from America, Australia and around the globe, from GAA people and not GAA people, in response to my interview with Roy Curtis Sunday World and on independent.ie last week.
Your warm and generous words, thoughts and prayers meant so much to me and my family.
And I was humbled and strengthened by the many sad stories I heard of their own awful loss and pain that people had suffered and wanted to share.