Dubs' critical issues  | 

Con O’Callaghan will be a big addition, but the Dubs need to sort out their defence

"I don't expect James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper or Mick Fitzsimons to feature next season, so more newcomers will have to be blooded"

Jonny Cooper looks like he has lost a yard of pace

Pat Spillane

CONTRARY to what might be anticipated, I have no intention of driving the final nail in the Dublin football coffin today.

I'm on record as predicting that Dublin will not win the All-Ireland this year.

But I still believe they will be in the last four in the race.

Actually, the league wasn't a total washout for Dublin. Lee Gannon (inset below) and Cian Murphy did enough to show they are capable of competing at this level.

Collectively, the players showed commendable spirit in the last 20 minutes in Clones, when hauling themselves back into a game which looked beyond them.

On a broader level, playing in Division 2 - provided they secure promotion next spring - might prove beneficial as they continue to rebuild the team.

I don't expect James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper or Mick Fitzsimons to feature next season, so more newcomers will have to be blooded.

Meanwhile, Dublin has issues to address before this year's championship.

Firstly, their aura of invincibility is gone.

Opponents sense blood and go for the jugular, rather than being content to keep the margin of defeat down.

Dublin's defence is a shambles, as evidenced by the concession of 11 goals in the league.

Stephen Cluxton was always going to be missed and they were unfortunate that Evan Comerford was missing last Sunday.

Michael Shiel had a meltdown with his kick-outs, and two of Dublin's most experienced defenders, Fitzsimons and Cooper, had nightmare games.

Luke Fahy of Cork in action against Johnny Moloney of Offaly

The latter has lost a yard of pace, and I don't think he is mobile enough to fill the centre-back role.

And team captain McCarthy didn't help the cause by getting sent off.

Their inability to convert their goalscoring chances is proving costly.

On average, they have butchered three chances per game during the league, in which they managed to score just two goals from open play.

This is an ongoing issue, as they scored only one goal from open play in the 2021 Championship.

Finally, the Sky Blues' key players are struggling with their form.

Brian Fenton is below his best; Brian Howard has been a peripheral figure in some matches; and Ciarán Kilkenny has been held scoreless in his last two games.

Brian Fenton of Dublin has not been at his best

The return of Con O'Callaghan will be a big addition, but the Dubs need to work on their decision-making and sort out their defensive system.

The message is that Dublin are still breathing, but, as I said at the outset, there will be no All-Ireland title for them in 2022.

Overall, Super Sunday exceeded all expectations.

Even Steven Spielberg would have had his work cut out to come up with a more exciting script.

Three of the four Division 1 games were won by a single point.

And the drama wasn't confined to the top flight either.

In what was effectively a Division 2 relegation play-off Offaly were a point up and safe going into injury time. Two late points saved Cork instead.

The hype of the U-20 All-Ireland success last season, Shane Lowry's financial backing and the high-profile recruitment of coach Tomás Ó Sé are now a distant memory of good times for Offaly.

They discovered three things this spring: the gap between U-20 and senior, the gulf between Division 2 and 3, and the difference between the conditioning of players from the top 12 counties and the rest are all significant.

The conditioning deficit cannot be rectified in a season. It is a three- to five-year project, so Offaly fans will have to be patient.

Cork had to win their last two league games to stay in Division 2.

They showed great character to do just that - and last Sunday their senior players provided leadership when it mattered.

Though I'm a Kerryman, I know how much the Munster Championship - and football in general - needs a county of Cork's size to be competing at the top level.

Two other thoughts struck me about the competition.

I cannot fathom why Kerry were the only team really interested in reaching the Division 1 final.

The composition of the divisions for the 2023 league puts paid to the notion that success in football is solely driven to population.

Leinster, the most populated province, has no team in Division 1 while the least populated, Connacht, has three.

Not alone is Dublin, by far the most populated county in Ireland, not playing in the top flight but four of the so-called commuter counties around it - Kildare, Wicklow, Laois and Offaly - were all relegated.

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