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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
James Crombie/INPHO Expect the Dubs fans to fill the Hill as Jim Gavin's side look to clinch another league title.
# Final Countdown
5 talking points ahead of Dublin and Derry’s National Football League final
“Lucky” Dublin, lethal Lynch and plenty more to look forward to this afternoon.

1. Are Dublin lucky to be here?

Yes — or at least they are in Jim Gavin’s opinion.

“Some of our performances haven’t been up to the standards that the players have set for themselves,” he said on Friday. “They and I know that.”

The Dubs were irrepressible in the second half against Cork but the fact that they fell 10 points behind and looked a distant second best should be the real concern.

Similarly, Eoghan O’Gara’s late double against Mayo and Diarmuid Connolly’s winning point against Tyrone will be painted as triumphs of heart and resolve but the focus must be on eradicating the mistakes that got them into the jam rather than the heroics that got them back out again.

Part of the problem can be put down to injuries and other absences but Gavin is right — there’s a lot of work still to do.

2. What will Bernard Brogan bring to the party?

The timetable for Bernard Brogan’s return has been mapped out with the Championship in mind, rather than today’s final, so it will be interesting to see how sharp Dublin’s star forward is on his first start of the season.

He certainly hit the ground running when he came off the bench for the final 25 minutes against Cork. He finished with five points (three frees) and won the penalty that allowed Diarmuid Connolly to seal the remarkable comeback.

With big brother Alan pulling the playmaking strings in behind, Dublin’s high-powered attack could be even more lethal this afternoon.

Michael Shields and Bernard Brogan Cathal Noonan / INPHO Brogan finished with 0-5 against Cork. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

3. The midfield battle

Michael Darragh Macauley remains a colossus but player availability and other tactical considerations have prevented Dublin from nailing down a consistent midfield partner for Footballer of the Year so far.

As in the game in Celtic Park, Cian O’Sullivan is named alongside him today and they will need to be at their combative best if they are to get any joy out of Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley.

The Derry duo came out on top last month and manager Brian McIver said this week that he expects to see even more of an edge from Doherty as he tries to make amends for his sending-off in the semis against Mayo.

4. Derry’s Lynch-pin

Why did Derry beat Dublin the last day? There were a few factors but none as important as the performance of Mark Lynch. The Oak Leaf skipper kicked a brilliant 1-8 and the Dubs defence found him too hot to handle.

If he can replicate that, Derry will have every chance of upsetting the five-point margin that the bookmakers are predicting.

He’ll have help too this time from Emmett McGuckin, who missed that game through injury, but returns today looking to add to the 3-9 he has already this season.

2040050652 Donall Farmer / INPHO Lynch has scored 2-42 already this season. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

5. Looking forward…

The Dubs are looking to claim their tenth National Football League title this afternoon but, more importantly, it would be their first back-to-back win in the competition.

With all the talk of “second season syndrome” and the difficulties of defending an All-Ireland, there would be no better way to stamp their authority than by retaining the first part of the trophy treble won in Jim Gavin’s first season.

For Derry the focus, regardless of the result, must be to maintain their league form into the Championship and their meeting with Donegal next month.

On the basis of the spring results so far, they are legitimate contenders in a wide-open Ulster but the last two times Derry made it to the league final (won in 2008 and lost in 2009) they flattered to deceive, crashing out in the provincial semis and then failing to make it through the qualifier series.

They can’t allow that to happen again.

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