A few thoughts ahead of the Dublin game

Cusack Stand AISF 2013

So, a bit over five months since our last appearance there, tomorrow evening the lads are once more set to take to the field in Croke Park, although this time the stakes are far lower than was the case last September. It’s good, though, to get a run-out at HQ early in the year and the half-decent weather we’re experiencing at the minute could help push the attendance level up a bit, which would help make more of an occasion out of the match.

It’ll also be my first time seeing the team in the flesh this year, as I wasn’t able to make it to the west for any of the earlier clashes. And, of course, seeing as it’s the Dubs we’re playing, I’ll be bringing a few small opposition supporters with me to Croker.

When the final whistle sounded at the end of our semi-final against the Dubs last September, the little lad howled (and, boy, can he howl) for what seemed like an hour. But I doubt even he will get too down in the gob tomorrow night if we record what would be three wins on the trot over the Dubs. This is the league, after all and it’s still only the start of March.

A win tomorrow night would, of course, be good to see but it can’t in any sense be portrayed – as Sean Rice seemed to be doing earlier in the week – as some kind of do-or-die contest. A quick glance at Jim Gavin’s pick for tomorrow night confirms this: like our man back in 2011, the new Dublin manager is using this NFL campaign to cast around for some new talent and so the team he’s sending out for this one contains only six survivors from the one that faced us last September. We, in contrast, retain eleven of our starting fifteen from that day.

There isn’t a huge amount to say about the team we’ve named to start. If you want to quibble with James’ selection, then, sure, Aidan O’Shea’s more natural position is in midfield, Chris Barrett is a wing-back and not a corner-back and the full-forward line lacks a bit of heft. But, on the plus side, the experiments involving Lee Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin have, rightly, been abandoned and Jason Gibbons has been given a long overdue start, partnering Barry Moran at midfield.

We look very strong in that midfield diamond area – especially when Donal Vaughan and Aidan O’Shea are factored in – and, in the absence of the suspended Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin definitely lack the kind of experience we have in this sector. Our semi-final win over them last year was based on establishing dominance around the middle third and if we can repeat the same dose tomorrow night we can be hopeful of securing a similar result.

To do this, of course, the forwards need to click better than they’ve done in their two league outings to date. With Jason Doherty in flying form, however, and given the way that the likes of Kevin McLoughlin, Richie Feeney and Michael Conroy seem to revel in the wide open spaces at HQ, this may not be as big an ask as might first be imagined.

What would be great to see tomorrow night is a fully switched-on performance right from the throw-in, one that sees us use our greater experience to dictate how the match is played. Regardless of whether or not we get the win, a more committed performance is a must: we were lackadaisical in the extreme for long stretches against Tyrone and, three weeks on from then and the days now visibily lengthening, it’s time for us to start playing some football again.

But if the result doesn’t go our way – and there’s every chance it won’t – I don’t think we need to see it as a sign that we’ve entered some kind of downward spiral. Personally, I think fifth or sixth place in Division One is ideally where we want to end this league campaign, thus avoiding the teeth-gnashing that would accompany finishing in the bottom two and the unnecessary distration of being in the play-offs in a year where we have a May championship clash with Galway in Salthill to think about.

If we lose tomorrow night then it’s definitely the case that the need to get a few more points on the board becomes that bit more urgent. However, with two eminently winnable matches coming up next – against Down and Kildare – we could still have six league points in the bag before Donegal come to town at the end of the month. And if we do, there’s every reason to expect that we’ll once again maintain our Division One status. We might even fail to avoid a league semi-final appearance.

So, although the spoils on offer tomorrow night aren’t to be sniffed at, what’s really important is that we see an improved performance and that we learn something tangible from the experimenting we’re doing. A bit of howling from the small lad at the final whistle would be an added bonus, but no more than that.

14 thoughts on “A few thoughts ahead of the Dublin game

  1. I have to admit that I changed my prediction for this game after seeing the Dublin team.
    That team named is certainly very beatable and I think my might win this by 3 or 4.

    I’d agree that it’s not do or die, but the sooner we gain 6 or 7 points the better.
    You just can’t beat playing in division 1, especially because of games like this in Croke Park. Can’t wait for it and it’s exactly the sort of challenge that should drive our lads on.

    No harm in playing AOS at 11. We all know he’s the best midfielder we have, but we are still nowhere near finding a quality centre forward. Maybe Horan is planning on rotating O’Shea and Gibbons between the 2 positions throughout the game. The days of players being tied to their positions are well and truly gone.
    It’s also time that Gibbons was given a few games to see what he’s really made of.

  2. Ya bet me to it Dan, I too had Dublin down to beat us by 2 points in the prediction league. I’ve now changed for a Mayo win by 2!

  3. Agood piece willie joe as i had a young dub in the house too 1 time [lived in lucan] but now after back living in the west the past 8 years she,s changed her colours to the green an red with still a bit of gra there still for the dubs as she tells me we hav to shout for both….lol heading off now in an hour for the big smoke and look,n foward to croker and as dan said this is the division you have to be in, just look at our neighbours galway n meath… mickey harte has often said it that you need div.1 football if you want to win n all ireland and for me harte is a top manager, i watched him closely on the line in c,bar league game compared to jam horan and were as james horans paces himself up n down thesideline mickey never left his standing position hand under his chin watching every move even when ball was out of play,watching players movements as ball was being retrieved like a hawk watching its prey, only compliment ican give him as he,s a brillant manager and wont be long before he,s back in croker with another team….Anyway safe journey to every 1 travelling today and come on the Coillti,s…..

  4. Is this game going to be on tv?
    As to the team selection and positioning I think we still need to try out a few bigger players in the full forward line. It was very disappointing to see donegals coming away with so much 50/50 ball last September against our best forwards.
    If we fail to find a target man we will perish on the same rock again in 2013.

  5. i have to agree with the statement from david, but lets try and stick with what horan is doing.

  6. Sean Og – that’s twice you’ve raised that particular hare. The joke’s wearing a bit thin at this stage so I’d leave it at that if I were you.

  7. David the match is to be shown live on Setanta Sports at 6.30 and deferred coverage on Setanta Ireland at 8.45

  8. Hard luck Mayo, worked hard but looked very tired I thought compared to the dubs. Dublin are a bunch of racehorses, what running. And Mayo still done the high ball in trick to smaller forwards with the same results as usual, not helping ourselves at all.

  9. Dublin will be so cocky an arrogant now the supporters will be on about winining all Ireland’s hope Kildare and Donegal put them in their place

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