Derry will be a tough test– Macauley
Dubs star set for big day but does not expect to run away with final.
Michael Darragh Macauley plans a novel way to relax next Sunday after the intensity of defending Dublin's Allianz Football League crown against Derry – he'll go for a 10k run.
And this is no ordinary post-match warm-down.
The event is the Samsung Night Run, being held simultaneously in Dublin and Cork city centres at 9pm on Sunday.
It's a charity event and Macauley has signed up for the Dublin run alongside thousands of fellow participants.
Adding to the interest is that the organisers are making it a Dublin v Cork, city v city challenge with the result decided by all runners' finishing times.
Given Macauley's level of competitiveness, it's hard to see him jogging the 10k course and taking it easy.
"I'm going to be under pressure. Bryan Cullen did the exact same last year. He played in the league final and ran this event in a serious time as well. I'm going to be a busy man that night.
"I've signed up 20 of my friends, so they're putting me under pressure as well," said Macauley.
Pressure is something that the Ballyboden St Enda's and Dublin footballer appears to handle with ease.
In fact, the only real pressure he feels is self-generated, as he constantly demands more and better from his own performances.
Since Macauley made his debut in the O'Byrne Cup in 2010, his inter-county career has already yielded two All-Ireland medals, a National League medal, three Leinster medals, two All Star awards and the 2013 All Star Footballer of the Year accolade.
Sunday's match against Derry offers the chance of more silverware for Dublin and another medal for Macauley but he's not concerned with the prizes. For him, it's all about the team performance, and winning the match. Anything after that is a bonus.
"I'm a work in progress. I have a plan. I know what I'm doing and I'm going in the right direction.
"I don't think you should ever be complacent about your own matches.
"I'd always look for the areas for improvement in my own game, and I'm always able to find a good few.
"I've a long way to go to be where I want to go, but I'm on the right road. I'm happy where I am at this stage of the season. I'm really looking forward to the summer ahead," he said.
While Derry go into the final as the surprise packet of the league – they have also beaten the Dubs at Celtic Park in their Division 1 contest last month – Dublin enter this match knowing that no matter what the ebb and flow of play, they can dig seriously deep into their reserves of defiance and find a way to win, as they proved in the semi-final against Cork.
The recovery from 10 points in arrears to a seven-point victory, followed comebacks against Kerry, Mayo (with 14 men), and even Westmeath.
The Cork performance was, however, in a different class. "It was nice the way it worked out for us," said Macauley. "It doesn't always work out like that but, in fairness to the lads, we showed good mental resolve not to give up in that match when it would have been very easy for us to throw in the towel at 10 points down.
"That's something that can't be built overnight. That's something this team has been building for a number of years now and it would have been tested in All-Ireland finals gone by, and All-Ireland semi-finals when we have had tough tests.
"Once you have come through a tough test, it stays with you and as a team. It has definitely stayed with us.
"It's great that we're able to draw on that kind of mental resolve. That's all it was, that never-say-die attitude.
"Lads have that belief and there is that general belief among the players that we can come back from any situation."
The question is: how many times can a team go to the edge of the abyss like that and keep pulling through? Sooner or later, the escape route will close.
"To be honest, if we play like we did in the first half (against Cork), it's not going to be good enough. Everyone's well aware of that.
"It worked out for us in the second half, but in an All-Ireland final, I wouldn't like to be trying to come back from 10 points down with half an hour to go. There's more than enough for us to work on," says Macauley.
Dublin fans may be tempted into a sense of over-confidence because it's Derry in opposition rather than Mayo, Kerry, Cork or Tyrone, but not Macauley and his fellow players.
"They're going to be hard to beat and they've got some outstanding players. We found out first hand how good they are when they beat us in Derry that day," he adds.
"Derry might have been a surprise package but it's not a surprise any more. It's going to be a big challenge."