Tuesday 21 November 2017

Darcy just happy to keep riding the crest of Dublin's blue wave

Declan Darcy: Learning curve. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Declan Darcy: Learning curve. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Coming into the role as a selector under Jim Gavin, Declan Darcy knew Dublin had potential.

After all, he had been at the coalface with the county's U-21s and was aware of how good they could be. And he knew they'd be bringing that group in to a squad that had already won an All-Ireland in 2011.

But chasing down three in a row and a fourth Sam Maguire since taking charge? He didn't see that coming.

"I suppose when we were looking at it initially, because we had worked so long with the U-21s, we knew the quality of the players that were there, we knew them inside out," Darcy recalled. "So we knew they had potential, we didn't understand where that could lead us to, certainly not to where we are at the minute.

"But we've just kept a battle rhythm in trying to get the best out of the players as best as we can and see where that brings us. We are very fortunate to be where we are."

There's no doubt that Dublin football is talent-rich right now. A shadow team winning the O'Byrne Cup is proof of that but that talent has been shrewdly developed by Gavin and Co.

Management has adapted too. They were caught against Donegal in 2014, a result that looks all the more impressive with each winning Dublin season since.

But for that defeat, Dublin might be going for five in a row on Sunday. But that defeat informed a new approach. Dublin are a little less gung-ho these days.

"When you reflect on that game, I wouldn't have put as much emphasis on it on the tactical sense.

"We lost some key battles, we were well in control of the game, so from our point we had lots of scoring opportunities, we still scored 1-17 against a defensive system that day. It was a learning curve for us all.

"There was a tactical change, I suppose. Dublin played Donegal in 2012 and you could sense there was an evolution coming in Gaelic games and we needed to adapt to that.

"Tyrone were there going at it again, other teams particularly in Leinster were setting up that way against us as well. So we quickly evolved and adapted, and we enjoyed it.

"We kind of said, 'This is what's happening, it's going to happen, we have to understand it.' The way we were playing against other teams they probably had to set up that way, considering the players we had.

"So we tried to evolve with that and I think we've enjoyed that journey. I wouldn't say, just because we played well against it the last day, that we've cracked that nut. But the players know now what to expect."

And he admits that he didn't see Dublin setting up in the way they did against Tyrone when he took the job.

"That would be fair to say. But we evolve rapidly. And every year it changes dramatically.

There were things thrown at us from a tactical point of view, which is fantastic. I love that bit and I think the players now enjoy that piece."

And now it's Mayo once more. Dublin haven't lost to the Connacht men since Gavin has taken charge but they have pushed them harder than anyone else.

"You can look at a team and ask, 'Why are they in four All-Irelands in the last six years?' Is it because they are lucky?

"It's not, it's because they have a huge standard of footballers. Look at Lee Keegan, he's a stand-out footballer, has physicality, pace, he has everything and they have several players like that."

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Irish Independent

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