Charlie Redmond: Super subs to drive the Dubs to victory
I believe that Dublin’s bench will be the ace in Jim Gavin’s pack that ensures victory over Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
We’ve seen it so often. Players like Michael Darragh Macauley, Kevin McManamon, Paul Mannion or Eoghan O’Gara come on and make a heck of a difference for the Dubs when legs are tired and there’s 20 minutes running still to be done on the big Croker pitch.
Contrast that with Donegal, who in the Ulster final replay against Tyrone took off 32-year-old Anthony Thompson in the second-half and then brought him back on 15 minutes later.
Now, if I’m No.22 or 23 in the Donegal panel, I’m looking across at manager Rory Gallagher (inset) and thinking ‘what the f***, has he no confidence in me at all?’
Add in the fact that Donegal will have only seven days rest after the win over Cork yesterday and to me it adds up to Dublin pulling away in the last 20 minutes.
While I mention Rory Gallagher, I see his old buddy Jim McGuinness had another pop at him last week. That leaves the Donegal players in the unusual position of having to play well every week to defend their manager from attacks by a boss who led most of them to All-Ireland glory. Strange.
For most people, the first port of call for this game is to hark back to August 2014 and that famous All-Ireland semi-final, the only championship game this Dublin team has lost in almost four years.
Dublin have learned from that bitter day, but I’m sure the DVD will be wheeled out a couple of times this week, just to make sure the Dubs’ defenders remember what happened that day.
What they will spot is that if either of two great first-half goal chances had been converted, Dublin would have been eight points ahead and the course of modern Gaelic football might have been very different.
A thumping victory for Dublin that afternoon might have buried defensive football forever. Instead it gained traction and now every team plays a version of it – some much, much more than others.
Next Saturday Donegal need the great Michael Murphy in three places at the same time.
They need him at midfield to stop Dublin winning easy primary possession. He would also be the ideal centre-forward to distract Dublin’s defensive lynchpin Cian O’Sullivan.
And, of course, Murphy would be a great targetman at full-forward to see if Donegal can expose the loss of Rory O’Carroll.
I’m sure they will use Murphy in the latter role at some stage of the match, but to do it exclusively would be a big error on Donegal’s part.
Dublin showed last year, on both days against Mayo, when it was Philly McMahon who marked Aidan O’Shea, that they are well drilled in dealing with the high ball whacked up indiscriminately at a big man.
Dublin simply don’t allow the opposition the time and space to produce that good ball towards the target man.
I expect Donegal will use plenty of their famed running game, with Frank McGlynn and the McHughs attacking at pace.
Saturday is Donegal’s All-Ireland final. Are they good enough this year to go all the way to Sam? No!
Are they good enough to win this game? Most certainly yes. They will hope to prey on Dublin’s bad memories of 2014 and be buoyed themselves by those good vibes.
They have the forwards to score a decent total, but remember this is much the same Donegal team that played in the famous 0-8 to 0-6 semi-final between the sides in 2011.
Only five Donegal outfield players, of the 18 they used that day, are no longer in the squad. In contrast, eight of the 19 Sky Blues in action five years ago are no longer with the group.
Dublin have freshened up their squad, while winning All-Irelands. Donegal have stuck with the same crew playing the same high-tempo game that ran into the buffers in the last 10 minutes of this year’s Ulster final. And they had a hard game against Cork yesterday too.
It all adds up to Dublin taking another step on the road to doing what has not been done since 1990 and retaining the All-Ireland title with the same manager.