Our semi-final isn’t, I know, on until the weekend after next but there’s as much, if not more, coverage today about the match on August 30th as there is on the non-sold-out semi between Kerry and Tyrone this coming Sunday. Here’s a quick gallop through what’s out there today.
The first piece to point you towards is the Jim McGuinness column in the Irish Times (here). Why the Donegal messiah chose to devote his thoughts to our match this week rather than the Kerry/Tyrone game is something I can’t answer but, of course, the same paper will have Darragh on tomorrow, all replete with his horsing this and skelping that, topped off with a nice thick coating of yerra concentrate.
Anyway, back to Jimmy’s writing columns. If his aim was to put the wind up us, he does a reasonable job, pointing to five areas which, he says, could tilt the balance on August 30th and concluding that it’s advantage Dublin in pretty much all five.
That’s all fine and it’s his opinion but one of those five “considerations” is Cian O’Sullivan (the other four being full-back line, kick-outs, defensive structure and forwards). I know the Kilmacud man is a key player for them but how come he alone, of the 30 players that’ll start the game, gets elevated to the status of “key battleground”? Jim, I’m afraid, doesn’t really explain this.
You could also quibble with his conclusions on all of the other four areas but, as I’ve said, it’s his opinion and so I’m not going to. The one additional area he touches on, which he says comes into play “when all of the technical analysis is done”, is what he terms “the intangible but powerful consideration of the cycle of hurt and the desire to break it”. Which, if a man was inclined to draw an analogy with econometric modelling would, I guess, be the equivalent of the error term, which is there to pick up everything not included in the model but which, of course, in practice can account for 99% of what’s driving the phenomenon you’re trying to model.
Staying with that analogy, I think that Jim’s “technical analysis” maybe leaves too much for that intangible bucket to pick up. A key consideration, for example, that I think will come into play is the fact that this match will be Dublin’s first shit-or-bust contest against top quality opposition in a full year. We all know how the last one they played in worked out and while they’ve been busy honing their style of play since then, they’ve only had League games (when teams are never at the same pitch, even in the final) and the Giants v Pygmies matches which have delivered them into this year’s penultimate round without breaking sweat.
I know we’ve had an easy run through Connacht ourselves, but I’d argue that we had to make sure we were at a sufficiently high level of readiness to get over the Salthill hurdle safely and we had to be pretty much at DEFCON 1 for the Donegal match. Having comprehensively dealt with the last top-class team Dublin played and were bamboozled by (albeit with Donegal under a different, and smarter, manager) I’d say our more advanced state of readiness could well be a key “consideration” for Sunday week.
Another one would be Jim Gavin. I have a theory, which this year will either show to be true or not, that the Dublin boss is a lucky rather than a clever general. He got every one of his big calls wrong (in particular the insane way he backed youth) back in 2013 but somehow managed to end up on the winning side (largely because we failed to put them away but also because Mannion got injured so early thus pitching the raging bull O’Gara – one of my favourite players – into the contest far sooner than Gavin would otherwise have deployed him). McGuinness then took him and his team for fools in last year’s semi-final.
One match where our lads – and I’d include in this the crucial behind-the-scenes calls being made by Donie Buckley as well as those of Pat and Noel – got everything right doesn’t mean we’ve suddenly got a distinct advantage in this department. I still think, though, that the brain trust in Jim Gavin’s Dublin isn’t anything like it was in the Gilroy/Whelan years and maybe, just maybe, August 30th will bear this supposition out.
Onto other stuff, much of it culled from last night’s press event.
Colm Gannon of the Mayo Advertiser spoke with Noel Connelly at the event (piece here) and the interview covers the news about David Clarke and Tom Cunniffe, as well as poor old Mickey C. It also deals with Kevin Keane’s appeal, which will be heard on Thursday, as well as Joe McQuillan and Dublin’s perennial home advantage at Croke Park, which Noel mentions but doesn’t make any big deal about. Which makes sense because it’s a wider issue and, in any event, where else are you going to play a sell-out semi but Croke Park. Limerick, anyone? Thought not.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the sunshine – there’s more rain on the way, apparently, but sure that’s always the case.
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