Lynch threat won't be enough to derail Dubs juggernaut
It may not be enough to bring traffic on O'Connell to a standstill this evening or prompt a party on Merrion Square tomorrow night but if Dublin beat Derry, Jim Gavin's men will have achieved something that none of their predecessors ever did.
Dublin are seeking to retain the league title for the first time, leaving Gavin as the only manager in the county's history to win the first four titles for which he challenged.
The league, Leinster and All-Ireland crowns were accumulated with impressive enterprise last year and now Dublin are the hottest of favourites to land the four-timer before moving on in a bid to make it six titles from six attempts later in the year.
Dublin were somewhat lucky to stay in the league race this year, coming within the width of a post of being eliminated when Sean Cavanagh's last-second kick for a Tyrone equaliser drifted wide in the final group game in Omagh. A draw would have left Tyrone in the semi-finals, but the gods had decided that Dublin's campaign merited a place in the last four.
Even then, Dublin seemed wretchedly ungrateful when lurching languidly through the motions for 40 minutes against Cork in the semi-final. Cork led by 2-11 to 0-7 (their lead would have been considerably higher if they hadn't wasted several excellent chances) before being hit by a Dublin tornado.
Dublin outscored the new-look Rebels by 2-13 to 0-2 in the final half-hour, whipping up a powerful momentum that sucked the life out of their startled rivals. The capacity to recover from difficult situations is one of the most significant plus points of a Dublin side which, if it manages to apply greater defensive security and more consistency at midfield, will be truly awesome.
The range of options available to Gavin in attack makes him the envy of all his managerial rivals. He was able to bring in Eoghan O'Gara and Bernard Brogan in the semi-final and didn't even have U-21 stars Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello in the squad, leaving them to concentrate on the underage All-Ireland pursuit.
Alan Brogan's return to full fitness after a few frustrating seasons has further increased Dublin's firepower.
Still, it's not all perfection for Gavin as Dublin continue to leak heavily. They conceded an average of 1-17 in their last four games against Cork, Tyrone, Mayo and Derry, which yielded two wins (one by a point), a draw and a defeat.
The loss came against Derry, who beat them 1-16 to 0-13 in Celtic Park on March 16. It was one of the highlights of what has been a most progressive season for Derry, who are bidding to win the Division 2 and 1 titles in successive seasons.
Derry lost their opening Division 2 game to Galway 14 months ago but have been beaten only twice in 15 league games since. Cork edged them out by a point this year, and Mayo beat them in the last round of the group games, by which stage Derry had already made the semis.
There's huge resilience in this Derry squad, as proven by the manner in which they coped so admirably when reduced to 14 men in the semi-final against Mayo. They play a smart type of game and probably have the Footballer of the Year so far in centre-forward Mark Lynch.
He will pose questions of the Dublin defence but even if they don't come up with all the answers, it's unlikely to cost them victory.
Derry's win over Dublin last month will give encouragement for Brian McIver's men but there's a big difference between playing at home in Celtic Park and in Croke Park against Dublin on a big day – especially a Dublin side who can bring in Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O'Gara and Cian O'Sullivan.
DERRY – T Mallon; D Duffy, C McKaigue, D McBride; K Johnston, G O'Kane, A McAlynn; F Doherty, P Bradley; E Lynn, M Lynch, C McFaul; B Heron, E McGuckin, C O'Boyle.
Dublin – S Cluxton; P McMahon, R O'Carroll, J Cooper; J McCarthy, N Devereux, K Nolan; MD Macauley, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn, P Andrews, D Connolly; A Brogan, E O'Gara, B Brogan.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.