Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dubs must not buy into hype

THERE is nothing I would like more than to see Kerry come out of the hat against Dublin when the draw for the All-Ireland quarter-finals is made this evening.

Obviously, I haven't had the pleasure of reading my rival newspapers yet this weekend, but I can well imagine the hype about Dublin's chances of winning the All-Ireland after their latest victory -- this time over a hopelessly out of sorts Louth team.

Fair enough, it is a great boost for the game if Dublin advance through the championships. It is not merely commercial, but everyone likes to knock a spot off the Dubs if they think they are riding high and none better than Kerry to do that, as they showed so devastatingly last year.

It was all one way traffic yesterday and once again it demonstrated that having to make inch by inch progress through the qualifiers is a great way of building confidence and match fitness.

We found that out in Kerry in 2002 when I was manager. Cork beat us in the Munster semi-final replay, but then we got past Wicklow, Fermanagh, Kildare and by the time we met a fancied Galway in the quarter-final, we were right on the pace of the game and we got past them, too, though ultimately we were beaten by Armagh in the final.

After yesterday's good wins both Dublin and Kildare will have had the benefit of a grinding series of qualifiers and should be well battle-hardened for the quarter-finals.

I don't subscribe to the conventional view that Dublin have had a big advantage by playing all their games at Croke Park.

Strangely, I feel the opposite, and while the hullabaloo and rigmarole of the Dubs at Croke Park might be entertaining, it is my conviction that Dublin would forge more inner strength by beating strong opponents at away venues.

Remember, the manner of the defeat to Meath left them shorn of confidence and I believe they were there for the taking against Tipperary and Armagh. But each win will bring added belief to these players and yesterday's victory was the most comfortable so far.

I, for one, didn't give Louth any chance yesterday and I heard a lot of rubbish talked by people in Kerry, who should know better, that they were in with a chance.

Nonetheless, it was a disappointing end to their championship. They don't even have the Leinster crown -- which of course is rightfully theirs -- to look back on.

Getting a football team onto the pitch for a crucial game at exactly the right moment of physical and mental fitness is as difficult as training a thoroughbred racehorse. Monaghan looked tired yesterday as if the campaign so far, particularly the Tyrone match, had drained them. Kildare, on the other hand, were brought to Croke Park in superb nick by Kieran McGeeney and now look like a good bet to reach the semi-final if the draw is kind to them this evening.

Basically, Monaghan didn't have the strength to catch Kildare yesterday. They were lacking in height both in the full-back line and the full-forward line.

What I liked about Kildare yesterday was the ability of Eamon O'Callaghan and man of the match James Kavanagh to pick the points from 35 yards or more. They looked sharp and their fitness was epitomised by the lean and hungry looking Johnny Doyle. I feel they are coming right just about now. McGeeney has these guys well drilled and they are almost relentless in their approach. You have to sit up and take note at how they have dismantled two strong Ulster teams in a row -- Derry and Monaghan.

I liked the way they played to space, were able to change direction, their diagonal kicking of the ball, and their ability to bring a bit of surprise to the game.

Certainly, the mood down in Kerry last night was that we wouldn't be all that keen on coming up against Kildare in the quarter-finals.

Lots of people here, though, feel that Kerry are safe to get through to the semi-final, even without Paul Galvin and Tomás ó Sé, but that's an assumption I would not make myself -- it all depends who Kerry come up against.

A lot of teams did an awful lot of work early this year and it may be that some of them did too much. But timing is everything. Cork scraped through last night and though they didn't look impressive, I'm going to stick my neck out that, at the end of the day, the All-Ireland still lies between Kerry, Cork and Tyrone.

I must have been the only commentator in the country to predict that Roscommon would beat Sligo last Sunday and I got very little recognition for my accurate forecast. I heard one man on radio say that nobody in the media had predicted a Roscommon victory. He should read my column more often!

Meanwhile, there were newspaper reports yesterday that my nephew Darragh ó Sé might be going to manage Laois. As far as I know, there is nothing in this -- it is too early for Darragh at this point to be moving into inter-county management. I would wait until the All-Ireland is over before expecting anything to happen in that way.

PS: Let me congratulate my good friend, Micheal ó Sé, former Ceannaire of Raidio Na Gaeltachta, on being awarded the GAA's Hall of Fame McNamee award in Dublin last night. Well deserved to a good colleague and two time All-Ireland winner.

Sunday Independent

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