Sunday 22 July 2018

Comment: Possibly Dublin's greatest ever player is available for Tyrone - and he needs to start

Dublin manager Jim Gavin consoles Diarmuid Connolly after he received a red card
Dublin manager Jim Gavin consoles Diarmuid Connolly after he received a red card

Paul Curran

TIMING is important in every walk of life and sport it is no different. Any manager will tell you that it is very important to have everything in order when it matters most and that can give you the slight edge over your opposition.

Obviously it is vital to have the fitness side of things boxed off and you want your team to be at their peak when it really matters and when the competition is at its best and that is something that has become a science in the game over the last number of decades.

The other thing that managers desperately want at this time of summer is to have a full deck to pick from with no injuries or suspensions or indeed defectors in the squad.

That is a very healthy environment to be in and a very positive one because injured players can be very negative, which is understandable at times.

It looks like Jim Gavin and his backroom and medical team have managed to get the full squad back to full health just in time for what will certainly be their biggest test this season in just less than two weeks’ time.

The Dublin supporters too will be delighted that Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley are back in the frame having got some valuable game-time against Monaghan in the last round. They are both outstanding players and their experience will be key when the Dubs attempt to break down a very organised and dynamic Tyrone defence.

Flynn and Macauley may not have enough work done to last a full game so the big debate will be whether to start them or bring them into the game as replacements.

I believe that there is a valid argument for both scenarios.

Starting both players would bring a physicality to the middle third of the field where it will be needed to protect possession against a very strong tackling team and both players are comfortable at breaking the gain-line which is also going to be key from a Dublin perspective.

That said I wouldn’t be surprised if both players were kept in reserve and thrown into the game in the second half which would give the group a huge lift at a time when the Tyrone players might be tiring.

Of course, they are not the only players to be back in good health with defenders Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon now back to full fitness after missing some of the Leinster championship. There is some talk too that Cormac Costello is now moving well following his return to full training after a succession of injuries and is ready to play a part.

Possibly Dublin’s greatest ever player is also available for this game and every Dublin supporter is looking forward to seeing Diarmuid Connolly back in the blue jersey.

According to reports he has been training very hard on his own and is in pristine condition.

Connolly will, of course, lack a little game sharpness but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue because he is that good.

Again the big question will be whether to start him or not but I would have absolutely no hesitation giving him a starting role in the half-forward line or even at midfield alongside Brian Fenton.

Connolly must have been very annoyed at the suspension handed down (12 weeks) after a very innocuous incident with a linesman in the opening game of the championship but he has served the time and must be really looking forward to getting his teeth into the next game and possibly two.

He is a match winner and a very intelligent player who is well used to being marked closely.

He has always been a great team player for the Dubs in recent years and his ability to kick long range points could be one key facet of Dublin’s game-plan against Mickey Harte’s men.

It’s certainly a game to savour as some damp squib quarter-finals. 

First up, however, in terms of the semi-finals is next weekend when Mayo take on Kerry in what should be a fascinating contest at GAA headquarters.

The bookies favourites are Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s Kerry which is understandable but I don’t think it’s going to be as straight forward as they predict.

Mayo have been the great survivors through the qualifiers and then coming back from a nightmare start against Roscommon in their drawn quarter-final.

Even though the opposition, at times, wasn’t top quality they still showed a willingness to play right to the end of each game which is a huge quality in itself.

They have been less than impressive but when it mattered most they were always able to produce the goods. Unfortunately for Roscommon they finally clicked in the replay and for the first time this year looked dangerous and very capable.

They will go into this game with a lot of close games under their belt while Kerry have made it this far without being seriously tested. This is a very good Kerry team who are building a very strong group of players but I still think they have a good bit to go and are by no means ‘world-beaters’.

I tipped them at the start of the season to go all the way and I’ll stick to that view but Mayo are arriving at headquarters with no trophy at stake and no pressure on them and in that situation in the past they have been able to win.

I expect the game to go down to the wire and wouldn’t rule out another draw but the end always arrives at different times for all of the teams in a season bar one and Sunday will most likely be Mayo’s turn to bow out.


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