Fitzsimons backs Dubs' mean machine to stand firm
DESPITE the concession of five goals against Meath in the Leinster championship last year, Dublin manager Pat Gilroy made a point of leaving his full-back line intact for the rest of the campaign.
Indeed, the same trio of Michael Fitzsimons, Rory O'Carroll and Philly McMahon were also in situ for the Dubs' championship opener against Laois this term, something that represents a significant vote of confidence from Gilroy.
However, an injury to McMahon means that the full-back line will have to be altered for the Croke Park clash with Kildare on Sunday.
Having once been seen as an area of weakness, where players such as Ross McConnell were deployed out of position, Dublin now boast one of the meanest defences around, with only Down and Kerry conceding fewer scores in Division 1 of the Allianz League.
Kevin Nolan could be in line to fill McMahon's jersey, with Paul Brogan starting at half-back, and Fitzsimons believes Dublin's much-vaunted defensive system will improve with each outing.
"It will take a while for us all to get used to and for us to be able to adapt to different situations when we need to. It is still a learning process," he said.
"Sometimes I have to let my man
run in and trust there'll be someone there to sweep up for me.
"I wouldn't be used to the whole sweeping thing. I was always man-for-man at the start and it was a flaw in my game. Even with my club, if I was playing centre-back, I wouldn't get the whole space aspect of Gaelic football. But it's something that has improved."
Their late league final collapse against Cork means questions are again swirling about Dublin's ability to see out big games, but, on a personal level, Fitzsimons believes that he is better able to cope when the tide of a match turns against him.
"It's happened to me before. If you get worked up about your man getting a score, it can bring you down for the whole game. My man got two points against me against Cork (in the league final) just because I didn't attack the ball. It could have killed me, but I got my head around it."
And while the 23-year-old Cuala man agrees that Laois "didn't turn up," he expects Kildare to pose some serious questions.
"Kildare come from all angles. They'll have a lot of runners with people like John Doyle and Emmet Bolton. It's not just six forwards getting scores, they come from everywhere."