Colm O’Rourke: Dublin still have all the answers in these uncertain times

And that’s hard for a Meath man to say.

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So here we are, another month has almost passed. However, like everyone else, there is a spring in my step. Sport has taken a back seat and rightly so, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and each passing day a bit of normality is appearing.

We will certainly get a right burst of horse racing in the month of June, with plenty of group action both in England and Ireland in. The big question in GAA terms is how the games will come across with the potential of empty stadiums from a viewing perspective and that remains to be seen.

Hopefully, like racing, we will get to see some form of GAA Championship 2020.

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The outright betting has Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and Galway in that order with Tyrone and Mayo next on the list.

Kerry are obviously making great strides and building a team to ask serious questions of the Dubs. They did that last year and the old adage of ‘you have to lose one before you win one’ comes into play for the Kingdom. Their players and management will have learnt a lot from the experience.

Donegal certainly have strength in depth and a super forward line, so they will be an obvious threat and Michael Murphy is one of the best footballers in the country. Tyrone appear to have taken a backward step, and the loss of star forward Cathal McShane is huge. One suspects even the possibility of October football will be too soon for his return to full fitness.

Galway are very interesting, and they were the team of the National League. Shane Walsh has threatened for many years to become a great player and in this year’s League he was fantastic in every game.

It’s a real pity for Galway and Walsh that it all came to a halt. It would have been very interesting to see how both would have got on against Dublin, potentially in a National League semi-final or final.

With the uncertainty and time on our hands there are a few areas where teams may have grounds for optimism to overturn this great Dublin team. Change of management, potential of Winter Football, change of Championship structure among them and also the big question of the likely scenario of reduced crowds, if games are to be played.

Dublin’s change of Management

This won’t make that much difference for The Dubs. Jim Gavin was always adamant that this Dublin team is player driven and always played down his role. He was happy to be the facilitator within this group.

Declan Darcy was a big part of his management team also and I know from talking to some of the players that he was Gavin’s right-hand man. He was very like Jim Gavin, low key. But, he played a massive role from a coaching and individual point of view, so he will be a big loss.

This team is very much self-motivated though, and for that reason I don’t believe it will make much difference long term.

From talking to some of the Dublin players in recent months, you would think they never won anything and they can’t wait to start again.

If anything, they will be motivated to win it again under new management. It will also give renewed optimism for an incredible panel of players and those on the fringe in recent years.

Winter Football

Dublin over the last five seasons have played second string sides during the League at times and their standards haven’t dropped. This year, if football is to played in the winter months, it will be Dublin’s strongest team and that will be a scary thought for all counties.

The likes of Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny simply love playing for their county and this feeling runs right through the panel. Of course, when you’re winning it makes it all the easier, so summer or winter won’t make a difference.

It must be very difficult for players to train individually with all the uncertainty and Dublin again will have a huge advantage in this department over other counties.

Individually and collectively they are the fittest team in the country and when Gaelic Football returns their professionalism over recent months will put them further ahead of their main rivals.

Potential of reduced crowds

Again, this will make very little difference to this Dublin team. Inter county footballers are used to playing in front of small crowds with their clubs. It is the intensity of the training games played behind closed doors with this Dublin team is well documented.

From my own experience, once the ball is thrown in it didn’t make a difference if there was one or 80,000 people at the game. Your focus is on the ball and the game in hand.

Dublin have the players, the motivation and the quality to overcome this.

So, while it is a huge privilege for them to run out on Croke Park to a sea of blue, the players will be more concerned about who is warming up on the line as opposed to how many people are in the stand.

Knockout football

It remains to be seen if the Championship gets the green light and then what format it will take. One thing for sure, the Super Eights will be knocked on the head for this year.

With the back door eliminated it will give grounds for optimism the Dublin can be beaten. Recent structures that have been implemented, while successful, have no doubt benefited the stronger teams.

It’s hard enough to beat the likes of Dublin and Kerry once, it’s almost impossible to beat them twice.

In knockout football there is always potential to be caught on the hop. But, with this Dublin team I reckon we are clutching at straws. Another factor is where the games will be played in terms of the possibility of provincial fixtures.

Croke Park’s surface is one of the best in the world. The ball seems to bounce the same in summer as winter, so I don’t see this causing the Dubs any problems and with social distancing in place in terms of supporters, I feel the Dubs will not have to stray too far from Croker. Certainly for the fixtures that will matter most anyway.

Everyone will have an opinion on who the main challengers are to this great Dublin team. But one thing is for sure, the very top of the market is right.

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