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Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021
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Graham compares all-conquering Dublin to Guardiola's Barcelona

‘A wee bit like Barcelona under Pep Guardiola,’ was how the Cavan boss described Dessie Farrell’s side.

Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny falls after being fouled.
Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny falls after being fouled.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

MICKEY GRAHAM COMPARED Dublin to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the wake of Cavan’s All-Ireland semi-final exit last night.

It was the heaviest beating shipped by Ulster champions at this stage of the competition since 1979.

Cavan’s first appearance in the last four in 23 years saw them avoid the concession of a goal until Robbie McDaid’s late green flag, but it was a case of death by a thousand cuts.

The reigning champions continually kept the scoreboard ticking with point after point, with Dean Rock, Brian Fenton, Con O’Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny contributing 18 points between them.

The longest they went without a score was between the 57th and 69th minutes, otherwise a six minute spell was their second longest scoreless period. 

Overall they were efficient, converting 21 of 30 shots, and dominated possession for long spells.

“People talk about the quality of footballer that Dublin have, but their work ethic [is excellent],” said Graham. “When they didn’t have the ball, how quickly they wanted to get it back. That’s what we need to get into our game and every other team that’s gone before us probably.

“That work ethic, intensity, how quickly can we get that ball back? A wee bit like Barcelona under Pep Guardiola kind of thing, that’s a credit to them and that’s the standard they’ve set.

“That’s the standard. It’s a once in a generation team there. Like everything else, they’ll come and move on. The rest of us just have to wait until that time comes and try and pick up the scraps after, let’s be honest.

“When it’s going to come, I don’t know. But it will. In every sport there is a team that comes around every so often and will dominate like they have dominated but sooner or later somebody is going to break that cycle. Then it’s up to the rest of the teams to be ready to take over the mantle.” 

Dublin’s average winning margin over their four games is 17 points and the manner of the victory led to further discussions over how their dominance over the football landscape should be addressed.

Graham was reluctant to be drawn into a discussion on Dublin’s off-field advantages.

“They’ve raised the bar and it’s up to every other county in Ireland to get up to that standard and we can make complaints about funding and facilities but it’s up to everybody else to raise their own standards. 

“We’ve seen first hand what they produced tonight, we’ll look back and say, ‘How do we get there?’ and we go about trying to improve our game and try and put the process in place to try and help us to close that gap, not just on them but maybe a couple of other bigger teams in the country.

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“They’re just so strong in every department and anything we tried there tonight, they were able to nullify it. We tried to go long, we tried run a them, we tried to get width and they were just so well prepared for everything we threw at them but you can’t fault the lads, they gave it a go at least.

“We could have came up here and decided we’re going for a moral victory and park the bus but we didn’t. I thought that was brave of the lads too.”

Cavan were given the home dressing rooms usually occupied by Dublin and warmed up into the Hill 16 end, which has traditionally been the domain of the Sky Blues as it is decided on alphabetical listing.

“We didn’t look for it to be honest with you,” admitted Graham. “People talk about the little margins and stuff but no, lookit we were told that coming in.

“We kind of laughed to ourselves, we don’t get much when it’s going. We got the home changing tonight but I don’t think that was going to influence the outcome.”

Reflecting on a season that saw Cavan end their famine in Ulster, Graham said: “It’s been an unbelievable journey. These lads have had so many setbacks in the last two years. It’s been well-documented the players that we didn’t have and the players we lost, but the way these lads come and wear the jersey with pride.

“We got relegated from Division 2 to Division 3. It would be very easy to look for somebody to blame but the lads stuck at it.

“During the course of the championship we looked dead and buried. But the boys showed great character and showed us what Cavan football is all about. There is character, there is belief in it and I think this year’s journey will bring huge confidence into next year and give us a platform to build on.

“We’ve a lot of young players coming through in Cavan. We’ve four or five lads, 18 or 19 years old, on the panel this year. And they’ll learn from this as well.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Kevin O'Brien

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