Derry will pounce on any mistakes, warns Cooper
At their press briefing this week, Dublin manager Jim Gavin insisted his side were lucky to be in tomorrow's league final while defender Jonny Cooper bemoaned his side's lack of consistency.
It seemed a little mournful for a side that have progressed to a league final while playing well within themselves and without ever fielding their strongest side.
Perhaps they were attempting to play down the expectation that has been building around their side since the second-half blitz of Cork, but for much of the league the Dubs have tested the considerable depths of their talent pool and played without front-line players.
However, the heroics against the Rebels might have been the first glimpse of the Dublin we'll see in the summer. They put their earlier defeat to the Leesiders right in that semi-final and will get a chance to avenge their other league reversal when they face Derry tomorrow in Croke Park.
They'll do so without the seven U-21 players who are preparing for next weekend's All-Ireland final with Roscommon. Ger Brennan, Denis Bastick and Dean Rock also won't play this weekend but Gavin's side are still clear favourites to claim back-to-back league titles.
"It's not unexpected but we are certainly fortunate to be there," said the Dublin manager. "Some of our performances haven't been up to the standards that the players have set for themselves. They know that and I know that.
"To get into a National League final we are in bonus territory for ourselves. Yes, there have been some very good passages of play but there have been a lot of inconsistencies and with six weeks to go to the championship we need to resolve those."
They were top scorers in Division 1 and Gavin admits their inconsistencies revolve largely around their back six. So far they have had the firepower to recover losing situations but they have shown themselves to be vulnerable at times.
And Cooper admits that pulling back a game from 10 points down as the did against Cork won't always be an option.
"Look, as a defensive unit we wouldn't be happy with the scores we conceded, the goals in particular," said Cooper. "People look in and say they wouldn't be coming back from seven, eight, nine, 10 points down.
"And I suppose within the team it shows there is that hunger and belief. Okay, you mightn't come back from 10 points all the time but there's certainly a strong will there for guys to keep pushing to the end."
Gavin suggested that teams will be more defensively minded when the championship comes around.
"From our perspective we need to be more robust and that's an area we need to work on from the last game," said Gavin. "If we defend like we did against Cork the last day we will be punished with the talent that Derry have in the forward line.
"I suspect that we will still see high-scoring games but teams will modify their defensive structures for the championship."
Derry confidence will be high but they'll face a much different side than the one that took to the field in Celtic Park.
Still, any sort of a win against Dublin these days can't be dismissed. Brian McIver's side hold the distinction of being one of just three teams to topple the Dubs since the start of the league last year.
When they won in Celtic Park, Mark Lynch put in a rare display of point kicking, the kind of performance that has marked him out as one of the form players so far this year.
"He got man of the match and I was marking him that day so I wasn't overly impressive!" Cooper recalled. "He is their go-to man. These guys probably have five, six seven years of inter-county experience. People tend to forget that; they have been the team in the shadows over the last few years, so they are coming good.
"He's very good. He is a big guy and you might think you have him for pace or that you can keep alongside him but he can score from pretty much anywhere. He has a lot of experience too, so he's a good all-round player.
"They beat us (last time) and deservedly so. We didn't bring what we needed to to the table. They are a good attacking team. Their guys come up from the back and the forwards – you could name any of the them, Lynch, Enda Lynn, Emmet McGuckin – they will take advantage of any mistakes.
"Overall they are fresh and hungry and coming up from Division 2 it probably shows the gap between Division 1 and 2 isn't that big after all."
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