'Joe got 4 good years out of me as a manager, surely to God he should leave me alone as a pundit'

Jim McGuinness expects Dublin to lift the Sam Maguire again this year but maintains that they can be beaten.

McGuinness at the launch of Sky Sports' championship coverage.
McGuinness at the launch of Sky Sports' championship coverage.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AS THE ONLY manager to mastermind the downfall of Jim Gavin’s Dublin in the championship, Jim McGuinness is in a pretty good position to propose a way to dethrone football’s dominant force.

The former Donegal manager firmly believes the All-Ireland champions can be beaten this summer, but insists it will take the perfect tactical game plan to upset the favourites.

He has previously suggested his own county are more than capable of being the side to do so, even accounting for the way Rory Gallagher’s side were brushed aside in the league semi-final.

McGuinness’ assertion raised a few eyebrows with Joe Brolly going as far as to say he was ‘taking the piss.’

Speaking at the launch of Sky Sports’ championship coverage, the 43-year-old refused to engage in a war of words and instead backed-up his claim that Dublin are there for the taking.

“Something I don’t want to do is comment about my own comments,” McGuinness said.

“When you write a column, it’s your opinion. In fairness to Joe, he got four good years out of me as a manager, surely to God he should leave me alone as a pundit.

“I wrote that Dublin are beatable on any given day but I do expect them to win the All-Ireland. I believe there are two or three teams out there that have the capacity to beat them.

Darren Hughes with Cian O'Sullivan McGuinness says teams need to target Cian O'Sullivan. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“A question was asked of Dublin in 2014. They came back in 2015 and answered that question.”The answer was their centre-back. He filled a void for me. He gave them a structure defensively which meant ‘you’re not going to penetrate us anymore, we’re not going to concede goals, we’re going to be difficult to beat’.

“But they also retained a lot of the offensive stuff in terms of their own game-plan, their kick-outs, their transition to attack, their kicking game.

“Other teams have to look at that and say ‘they’ve made that shift, how do we make a shift to beat that?’

“For me, Mayo had a very good opportunity last year. They had Barry Moran, who’s 6’4 or 6’5, and Aidan O’Shea. Two massive men who would need marking inside, so that carries a goal threat.

“His processes then as a sweeper is going to be ‘I’m going to have to cover that, I have to watch that’.

“The team that beats Dublin will need a very good number 11, a number 11 who can get on the ball, dictate the pace of the game, score individual points and make incisions. And he has to be marked.”

Rory O'Carroll with Cillian O'Connor It remains to be seen how big of a loss Rory O'Carroll will be. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

With Rory O’Carroll, who has moved to New Zealand, absent for the 2016 campaign, McGuinness said Cian O’Sullivan needs to be targeted and pulled out of position if teams are to have any success.

“You’ve got to pull him [O'Sullivan] out of position but, if you pull him out of position and he doesn’t pick up, that guy has got to get the ball,” McGuinness continued.

“And, when he gets the ball, he’s got to have the capacity to do damage.

“If he’s doing that and fires it on the diagonal and you have two massive men in there with maybe a Cillian O’Connor coming on the loop, then you’ve got an aerial threat inside, a quality forward on the loop and a number 11 who’s dictating that space.

“Space that he (O’Sullivan) was very comfortable in last year isn’t there all the time because he’s been shifted left, right, out in front winning the ball and runners coming off it.

“You need a very intelligent, structured game-plan and very good players to carry it out.

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“If you have two big, big men in there, they will miss O’Carroll because the alternative isn’t going to be much over six foot.

“If you have forwards who’re 6’4 or 6’5 and Philly McMahon is picking up one of them and Michael Fitzsimons maybe the other, it’s a different dynamic.

“That means the aerial threat is real. If you can occupy the sweeper then and make sure he’s not under their feet, it becomes…we won’t know until the summer.

“There are only a couple of teams with the capacity to have quality inside and size inside and players on the 40 that can ask the question.

“Mayo, Kerry, I don’t think Tyrone could because of the size situation, Monaghan possibly.”

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