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Pillar Caffrey concerned Dublin aren't yet 'battle-hardened' after one-sided victories

Former Dublin boss Caffrey believes the reigning champions haven’t been properly tested yet.

Caffrey was speaking at the launch of EirGrid's Manager Moments In Time campaign.
Caffrey was speaking at the launch of EirGrid's Manager Moments In Time campaign.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN SEALED THEIR place in the All-Ireland semi-finals at the weekend with one game to spare, meaning Jim Gavin has the option of rotating his team for final Super 8s game against Tyrone.

12 months ago, a much-changed Dublin side ran out convincing winners against Roscommon in a game where Eoghan O’Gara grabbed 2-2, Paul Flynn scored 1-3 and Bernard Brogan made his first championship appearance since returning from cruciate surgery.  

With a short turnaround ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final the following weekend, former Dublin manager Paul ‘Pillar’ Caffrey expects Jim Gavin to put out a relatively strong side for their trip to Omagh.

“If you’re the manager, there’s nothing like a winning dressing-room,” he said. “It’s a short two weeks now and a lot of the preparation will have been done.

“I think both teams will go at it to try to win this game and have a winning mentality coming out of it. The semi-final is only six or seven days later, so maybe it might give you a chance to pull some players. 

“They will know who’s in the semi-final because the other group will be sorted on Saturday night. Look, how do you cherry-pick? 

“If Mayo pulled off a shock they’d still put it up to anyone in the semi-final. I’d expect Donegal to beat Mayo and come through and I expect Kerry to beat Meath to come through. 

“So it will probably be Kerry winning the group and Donegal second, that’s the way I’d see it. Is there any advantage in avoiding one or the other? I wouldn’t think so.”

One player the Na Fianna club man believes could be involved is Diarmuid Connolly, who returned to training with the squad last week. 

Asked if there’s St Vincent’s star could get game-time despite his lengthy absence from inter-county football, Caffrey replied:  “A normal player, no, but Diarmuid Connolly is not normal.

“I’ve often described him as the best player I’ve ever had in my dressing-room at any stage of my managerial career. 

“I think Jim would have sat down and looked at the pros and cons of this with his management team and decided, yeah, Dublin are trying to win the All-Ireland, but they’re also trying to create history. 

Jason Sherlock and Jim Gavin Jason Sherlock and Jim Gavin look on during the win over Roscommon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Something that has never been achieved. The great Kilkenny hurling team couldn’t do it. A phenomenal Kerry football team couldn’t do it. 

“There will be bumps on the road and I think it’s best to have all your aces in your tent rather than one or two of them outside.  Once Rory O’Carroll was available it was a no-brainer. And once Diarmuid was available to come back it was a no-brainer.”

“Jim has been very consistent in picking his six forwards. Seven forwards have rotated the six positions this year really. Cormac Costello and Dean Rock and the other five are nearly picking themselves. 

“I don’t see that changing short-term unless there’s injuries. Maybe the impact off the bench for Dublin isn’t what it was in previous seasons.

Could Diarmuid be an X-Factor? If he shows well in training I’d certainly think you’ll see him playing some role in the next couple of weeks.”

The Sky Blues claimed the Sam Maguire last year without being severely tested, but Caffrey expects both Kerry and Donegal – if they progress – to give Gavin’s side a stern examination.

“It is an issue and it would be a fear for me that they’re not battle-hardened against the quality of the team they’re going to come up against.

“The Cork game was a serious game for 60 minutes, be under no illusion, but that’s the hardest game we’ve had since the National League. It’s hard to work out how the Omagh game will go. It’s a dead rubber in ways but I think both teams will probably want to win that game and keep a winning mentality. 

Dean Rock, Brian Fenton, Eric Lowndes and Paddy Small tackle Enda Smith Dean Rock, Brian Fenton, Eric Lowndes and Paddy Small tackle Enda Smith. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“But the All-Ireland semi-final is only six or seven days later so that’s a very short turnaround, albeit there’s a slight advantage for Dublin and Tyrone as they will have the choice of resting players or running their bench in.

“Whereas Kerry have to win their game and Donegal or Mayo have to win their game so they’ll be tough physical games for them. You might be less of an intense game up in Omagh than we would have expected but in my eyes there are two very serious tests going to have to be overcome by Dublin.

“I think Kerry are coming with a great crop of players and they’re going to be looking to take an All-Ireland if not this year then in the very near future and Donegal are a very serious outfit.

“I think the bookies’ odds are crazy. I think Dublin have to put out two big performances in the semi-final and final. I think there’s going to be a hiccup along the line. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a Dublin-Kerry All-Ireland. Once you’re in an All-Ireland, you’ve a great chance.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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