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comment Dublin remind me of Kerry in 2009… this year is all about peaking at the right time


James McCarthy of Dublin tangles with Meath's Thomas O'Reilly during the Leinster football semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

James McCarthy of Dublin tangles with Meath's Thomas O'Reilly during the Leinster football semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

James McCarthy of Dublin tangles with Meath's Thomas O'Reilly during the Leinster football semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Could the real Dublin please stand up?, it appears, is the gist of what is being asked of Dessie Farrell’s men at the moment in Dublin GAA circles.

The sub-standard nature of their displays in the championship to date, specifically their second half against Meath, for which the Royals must take credit, has accentuated a feeling of foreboding for many observers in the capital.

It reminds me in many ways of Kerry in 2009 when the Kingdom lost to Cork by eight points in their Munster semi-final, a Cork team that then only narrowly defeated Limerick in the Munster decider.

Kerry went down the qualifier route and struggled and stuttered their way past Longford (four points), Sligo (one point), who had a late David Kelly penalty saved by Diarmuid Murphy, and Antrim (five points).

The air was black with rumours of unrest and a breakdown in discipline in the Kerry camp, Tomás Ó Sé and the Gooch were dropped to the bench for the Antrim game, and then they faced the Dubs in Croke Park and they called on all their ability and experience to deliver the mother, father, Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey of hidings to us in Croke Park in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Two games later, following victories over Meath and Cork, Kerry were All-Ireland champions for the 36th time. Rumours of their demise had been greatly exaggerated .... the startled earwigs were sent homeward to think again.

While the Dublin squad is not nearly as strong as it was at its peak a few years back, they still have massive ability and know-how in their camp. The prevailing narrative that implies the end of the line is in sight for this team will possibly have riled up Farrell’s men and could just provide the jump leads to shock their engine back into action.

However, I’m not in the camp arguing that Dublin need to come out in Sunday’s Leinster decider against Kildare and make a ‘statement’. Mayo and Kerry showed their All-Ireland intent in their provincial successes last weekend and are now sitting back lining up their next opponents from this weekend’s two other provincial finals.

So what do Dublin need out of Sunday’s Croke Park contest? Firstly, they’ll be playing a side who themselves will be rightly p***ed off about the lack of respect they have been shown by many commentators in the lead-up.

Most media commentary I’ve witnessed since last weekend have been disrespectful to the Lilywhites by hardly even giving them a cursory mention. From a Dublin perspective, to state the obvious, for starters they just need to win, and not necessarily by making any big ‘statements’ about their championship ambitions.

Farrell will also be looking for some or all of his injured players to make comebacks and get invaluable game-time into their legs. He’ll also be looking for some of the less experienced players to start delivering better displays than they have to date.

If Dublin were to win in a fashion that could be filed away as ‘with room for improvement’, I don’t think their management would be overly concerned as Dublin already appear to face an uphill challenge to secure their seventh Sam in a row, so timing could prove to be everything – delivering their biggest performances on the biggest days.

In full-forward Daniel Flynn, Kildare have a rare talent and much of their game-plan will be based around trying to get him one-on-one with a Dublin defender close to goal. Two moments of great skill from the Johnstownbridge clubman steered the Lilies to their semi-final win over Westmeath, while they will also be looking for Neil Flynn to show the form he displayed in their previous victory over Offaly.

However, with Kevin Feely ruled out through injury and Eoin Doyle not expected to play either, manager Jack O’Connor is deprived of two of his best players who usually deliver and bring composure to their side. Kildare have wobbled in the concluding quarter in a number of their games this year, including their league clash with Meath as well as both of their championship victories.

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If Westmeath had packed their scoring boots rather than their shooting boots last time out, arguably they would be facing the Dubs this weekend. The Midlanders generated 37 shots against Kildare and if Dublin are afforded such opportunities, it will spell huge danger for O’Connor’s men.

While Dublin’s second-half showing against Meath was very poor, there was still enough in their opening 35 minutes to suggest they could yet get their timing right. Dublin teams hitting the snooze button is nothing new and despite the incredible achievements of the boys in blue over the last decade, they have also had bouts of narcolepsy.

When Dublin and Kildare clashed in the 2017 Leinster decider, they raced into a 2-4 to 0-1 lead inside the opening 20 minutes, yet over the following 15 minutes were outscored 0-4 to 0-9. I’m expecting Dublin to deliver a better and more consistent display over the four quarters on Sunday and secure their 11th Leinster title in succession ... with room for improvement.

So, if one All-Ireland semi-final will see Mayo face Dublin, for me, the other one will see Tyrone encounter Kerry. It has been an emotional time for all involved in Monaghan GAA following the tragic recent death of their U-20 captain Brendan Óg Duffy. No doubt the Farney men will be extra determined to lift the Anglo-Celt Cup to honour his memory as well as ending their Croke Park hoodoo against the Red Hands – a record that has seen Tyrone win all four meetings at GAA HQ.

However, the key to a Tyrone victory may be in getting their man-marking head-to-heads right.

In Ronan McNamee and Pádraig Hampsey, they have two players who could curb Monaghan’s scoring threat.

Monaghan’s goal-scoring ability was central to their semi-final victory over Armagh but from their perspective, I fear, they showed their hand and Tyrone, by deploying Frank Burns as extra defensive cover, may shut down the direct route to goal.

Tyrone have an array of attacking talent, with Darren McCurry and Kieran McGeary in fine form. Combined with Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna and Tiernan McCann, they have enough firepower coming off the bench, if none are selected to start, to set up an All-Ireland semi-final clash with the Kingdom

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