Kildare boss: O'Neill: Stop worrying about what Dublin have
The rest of Leinster have to stop focusing on Dublin and start concentrating on themselves more, Kildare manager Cian O'Neill has advised.
Speaking at yesterday's Leinster Senior Football Championship launch at the superbly appointed Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham yesterday 100 years to the day after Padraig Pearse was executed, O'Neill admitted Dublin were casting an ominous shadow across the province's landscape.
But he feels there is perhaps too much focus on what the current champions have, and says that needs to change.
"They are (maintaining an ominous presence), and in Leinster more so because some of the other contenders are outside the province - your Kerrys, your Mayos, your Tyrones," said O'Neill.
"They're blazing a trail there but it's up to the other counties, ourselves included, really to focus on what we're doing and hope we can get better at it.
"Sometimes I feel too many people worry about what Dublin have and what they don't. Really, they should be focused about how they can improve their own house.
"Whoever plays Dublin, you know what you're up against, and it's a credit to Jim (Gavin), his management team and the players because they've done it consistently.
"But in each sport everything goes in cycles, no more than Leicester at the moment.
"People were talking about five in a row with Dublin a couple of years ago and they got caught on the hop by Donegal, so it's up to every other team to see if they can produce another performance like Donegal that day."
O'Neill accepts that because Dublin are so far ahead, some teams don't set goals to beat them, but he feels that's a dangerous game to play.
"I don't think it's a stupid way of looking at it but I don't think it's fair as an elite footballer or manager of a team to look at it like that because you're almost conceding defeat at that stage," he said.
"I think the bottom line is you need to take each game as it comes. If we do our job against a Wexford, a Westmeath, an Offaly or a Longford, we get an opportunity to play Dublin, who happen to be the best team in the country.
"If we decide 'let's just get through this and see where we are in the last 12', I think that would be a very negative attitude, not just for the players but for the supporters and everybody who is putting effort into the county."
O'Neill, who stepped away as a Kerry selector after last year's All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, believes the reaction to the Kingdom's defeat in the League final has been over the top.
"I thought it was ridiculous, really. Blown out of proportion. On any one day, a team can underperform," he said.
"We underperformed the day before (in the Division 3 final) and Clare performed."
"The difference when you're at the top and you're a team like Dublin or Kerry, if you underperform on any one day. . . for example, Kildare last year got hit for seven goals.
"I know the Kerry boys, I know them well. I know Éamonn (Fitzmaurice)and his management team. They're a serious operation. You don't win an All-Ireland with the challenges and obstacles that were in force in 2014 without having a really committed group of players and an outstanding manager and management team.
"Kerry will just take that as a learning and they'll go back and see where they can improve because you can be damn sure they're going to be back at the top table in the next few months."
O'Neill accepted that the defeat to Clare was a disappointment for Kildare but feels it can refocus their Championship effort.
"We were skating on thin ice during the League until we got caught by Sligo and I thought the training period between that and the Tipp and Clare games really refocused us," he said.
"So you would like to think that what happened in the League final will do the same for Championship now."
O'Neill will finalise a Championship squad this week that will be peppered by more of their U-21 players from the last couple of years who have been making a steady impact. Thus a changing of the guard from the era of five successive All-Ireland quarter-finals is very much in place.
"Transition is where we are at at the moment," he said. "We're trying to develop the senior and U-21 players into senior athletes and senior calibre players.
"The fact that we still have five or six means that they have a very important role on the pitch but also mentoring off the pitch. To get that blend is a challenge in itself for the management."