We’ll watch in the hope of spotting a weakness in Dublin’s game

Jack McCaffrey is a hell of a fella. Just as all of us in the football world are consumed by the thought of the Dubs bursting forth into the province of Leinster tomorrow, McCaffrey will be in the departure lounge of Dublin airport awaiting his flight to Zambia.
We’ll watch in the hope of spotting a weakness in Dublin’s game

When he spoke with us about his impending 10-week trip on an Saol ó Dheas on Raidió na Gaeltachta during the week you got the sense of a man who has it all figured out.

He said that having emerged on the Dublin senior scene at the age of 18, he was anxious at the age of 22 to experience a normal summer before the demands of a career in medicine and inter-county football push him down a certain path for the best part of a decade.

Having visited Zambia almost a decade ago with family, McCaffrey said he yearned for a return and this year seemed as good a time as any.

So there you have it!

The best player in the country taking time out from the best team in the country at a time when everybody else seems to talking about how serious the game has become.

Speaking briefly with him after the on-air interview, it emerged that during our chat last year’s footballer of the year was crouched behind a rock three quarters the way up Croagh Patrick in order to ensure a good quality phone line.

He was anxious to dash off as he didn’t want his uncle, who was accompanying him on the climb, to reach the summit before him.

Like I said, McCaffrey is the kind of man you don’t meet every day.

Then again, the Dublin team he leaves behind are different too. They have been for some time.

It is 10 years this weekend since they went on the road for a championship match. Only Stephen Cluxton remains from the team that went to Pearse Park, Longford, where they were gifted a first-half goal to ensure they avoided the qualifiers.

It’s been a long time since Dublin faced into Leinster Championship football with the spectre of the qualifiers looming and this weekend will be no different.

The bookies odds of 1/100 for Dublin to beat Laois and 1/25 for them to win Leinster outright tells us most of what we need to know about what’s going on in the province.

And, yet, we won’t avert our eyes.

We’ll watch in the hope of spotting a weakness in Dublin’s game.

As unconvincing as they’ve been to date in 2016, Laois at least have the slight advantage of having had an outing against Wicklow last month to iron out the kinks of spring.

Who knows, they might actually take the lead today in the opening moments with some well-rehearsed piece of sorcery.

Brendan Quigley, John O’ Loughlin and Conor Meredith might then orchestrate a scenario from the resultant kick-out that will see Stephen Cluxton kick the ball out over the sideline in an unfamiliar Nowlan Park.

Then the Laois people, who didn’t get the hump about having to travel south to Kilkenny on the Bank Holiday weekend, might find their voice for a few fleeting moments leading to a few more threads of encouragement.

Just enough to keep hope alive.

Having endured what they have at the hands of Dublin this past decade, the followers of the game in counties such as Laois are nothing if not hopeful.

They have no other choice.

When the Dubs get their act together, as they always eventually do, Graham Brody might just be in the mood to have one of those days in the Laois goal when everything the Dublin forwards pepper at him comes back as it did for most of the first half of the corresponding fixture two years ago.

Donie Kingston might have enough in the tank to take the battle to Dublin until half-time and Darren Strong might even get forward for a few trademark scores before Paul Flynn, Dean Rock and Ciarán Kilkenny decide enough is enough and close him down.

But it is unlikely that John O’ Loughlin will give Cian O’Sullivan much more bother than any other centre-forward has these past 18 months.

The chances are that O’Sullivan will carry out his sweeping duties as efficiently and in as unruffled a manner as he usually does.

By the early stages of the second half, Dublin’s superior conditioning and tackling should force a few turnovers, gaps will start to appear and the whole thing will begin to play out like the movie whose plot, motifs and ending you’ve copped from a long way off.

Three principal characters will interest me today — James McCarthy, Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny.

All three are bang in the middle of what could be described as the form of their careers, and even though Dublin have more established stars than this trio, it always helps champions to have a clutch of genuinely solid performers who will deliver their lines and get the job done before moving on to their next role.

All three are front-runners for any individual gongs that might be handed out at the end of the year but I doubt any of the them care so long as the collective succeeds.

And succeed they will.

It might at times be an inelegant bit of work. There may be balls kicked out over the sideline, passes misjudged and easy scoring chances passed up.

But it’s June, the Dubs are out of Croke Park and even though they might even bring a bit of the weather with them on the road, it could take at least until half-time to adjust.

What was it the great David Hickey said a number of years back when equating the first round of the Leinster championship with his own recovery from serious illness?

It may be a very painful and unpleasant experience but you know you will get through it.

As a man of medicine, our humble friend Jack McCaffrey will recognise the sentiment.

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