Dean Rock and Cillian O’Connor will both have similar feelings this morning.
Their mantras will be along the lines of: ‘I must get fit. I must get back on the field as quickly as possible. I want the responsibility of taking the frees. I can handle the pressure.
I don’t care about the opposing player standing 13 feet in front of me, creeping inches towards me whilst doing a silent Mexican wave.
The angles don’t matter. The distance doesn’t matter. The lack of respect shown by the opposing supporters doesn’t bother me.
Flying gumshields or GPS devices are all irrelevant. I will nail my frees. I can handle the pressure.’
But both have very different reasons for a speedy return.
O’Connor is needed back because Mayo’s trio of place-kickers in his absence, namely Jason Doherty, Evan Regan and Kevin McLaughlin are too erratic with their placed efforts.
Cillian is by no means the finished article when it comes to consistency at the ‘business end’ of the championship, but he’s still the best free-taker in Mayo.
In contrast, Rock has been Dublin’s most consistent free-taker, but this is mainly due to Jim Gavin giving him first choice at all placed kicks.
If Rock is named on the starting 15, he’s the automatic free-taker.
Dublin also have a backup trio of reliable free-takers namely Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion, and Cormac Costello. If Rock doesn’t deliver on any particular afternoon, he has serious competition.
On Saturday night, Costello proved that point emphatically. The understudy had 12 placed attempts in Portlaoise.
He scored ten, missed one 45 metre effort and hit the post with the other attempt. However, he collected the rebound from the latter effort and drove the ball over the bar with his left foot, slightly disgusted he had hit the woodwork in the first place!
His reaction and his conversion summed up the mindset of this slick, cohesive Dublin attack who were relentless in the pursuit of excellence.
They were constantly challenging each other and that is an attitude which is hard to match.
Notably a number of the kicks were made easier for Costello, due to comments made by the Louth players towards the referee. Dissent equals easy target practice.
Another man who had plenty of time standing over placed balls was the Louth goalkeeper, Fergal Sheeky, who did a fantastic job.
Put yourself in his boots for a moment with dozens of blue jerseys swarming like bees in front of him. As every minute passed by, the score was increasing and the scorekeeper was cursing Dublin’s accuracy.
Plenty red jerseys looked to be running away from Sheeky, just in-case he decided to ping the ball their way.
Sheeky defied his team-mates and was unflinching in his efforts to find a Louth jersey anyways. He confidently kept chipping balls over his full-backs and regularly found his man.
Picking the ball five times out of your net must be a demoralising experience, but, to be fair, he wasn’t at fault for any of them.
He just came up against one of the greatest GAA teams of all times, who are afraid of a poor performance.
For if they have a poor performance, impact substitutions like Michael Darragh MacAuley, Kevin McManamon, Philly McMahon, Rory O’Carroll and Paddy Small will up the ante and seal the deal.
Mick Fitzsimons has played for nine seasons, won eight Leinster titles, six All-Irelands and five NFL medals.
On Saturday he kicked his first point for Dublin at senior championship level. He’s still hungry. He’s still looking to improve.
With Rory O’Carroll back in town he must keep evolving. Every Dublin player is continuing to evolve. They have to. Staying static will mean defeat.
They don’t look like they want to experience that feeling anytime soon.
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