Dublin still have mountain of work to do, warns cautious Lyons

TOMMY Lyons left Navan on Sunday realising the task in front of his Dublin team.

While Joe Kernan has talked of Armagh having a hill to climb if they want to match the zest and hunger Dublin displayed at the weekend, Lyons feels the All-Ireland semi-final won't be as cut and dry as some might believe after the weekend's matches.

"Armagh are a big, strong physical team and what I saw in Navan didn't tell me much I didn't already know," Lyons said. "Everyone knew they were a good football team, very big and strong and they have some very good scoring forwards. They have been on the trail for the last four years now, much longer than us, so I don't think they will be intimidated by playing us in Croke Park."

Of course, what is facing Dublin the next day is possibly the meanest defence in the business. Although Justin McNulty looked extremely dodgy under any Sligo high ball in Navan, Armagh's defensive unit, when running smoothly, is a finely tuned machine. Francie Bellew gave another awesome performance against Sligo, and while they weren't as miserly as they have been all year, they still repelled Sligo when they needed to most.

"They have a very good defence and that is one of the areas we will be looking at, but they are a strong team throughout."

However, in the aftermath of Saturday's game, Lyons tempered his delight with his side's performance by highlighting that in some sectors, they had made a few mistakes. The city may be in rapture, but for Lyons, there is still a mountain of work to do.

"The expectation that has been there all year. It is what you have to deal with when you are involved with Dublin footballers. It didn't matter how good our performance had been on Saturday, if we were in an All-Ireland semi-final, the expectation would increase anyway.

"I was happy with our performance but there are still some issues to sort out. I was very pleased with our defence, I thought we played very well there, but offensively we made a few mistakes which we need to look at. We still have things to work on and that's good. It means the team know they still have some way to go."

Lyons was joined by Paul Caffrey as they watched Sunday's enthralling encounter in Navan.

And while they were still sore about the late penalty that never was in Sligo yesterday, the Dublin manager feels it would have been a brave decision for the referee to make.

"It was hard to see what exactly happened, but it was one of those things. If there were three points between the teams and a few more minutes on the clock, it might have been a penalty. But overall, I think Armagh deserved the victory."

What Sunday's result means is that this football championship will get a real novelty All-Ireland semi-final. Armagh and Dublin, probably the two wildest bunch of supporters in the country (although Jarlath Burns among others criticised Armagh for not travelling to Navan on Sunday), with the Orchard county looking to destroy all talk of a Croke Park hoodoo.

Incidentally, the last time Armagh won in Croker was in 1977, when they went on to play Dublin in the final.

Lyons is relishing what an occasion September 1 is sure to be. "I have said all year we could nearly fill Croke Park on our own. It is great we are playing Armagh there, because they have a great tradition of bringing fans down to Dublin. And that is what you want, it is sure to be a colourful occasion."

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