Three-time All-Ireland medallist Keaveney, inducted yesterday into the GAA museum’s Hall of Fame, wasn’t denying that in-form full-forward O’Shea has the potential to wreck Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final challenge.
But he baulked at the suggestions made by some commentators that manager Jim Gavin should rip up the script and go against all his instincts and install a sweeper or double-mark the powerhouse attacker.
In Keaveney’s view, either move would be a public admission from Gavin he didn’t trust regular full-back Rory O’Carroll to break at least even with O’Shea.
“I don’t think there’ll be any sweepers, I don’t believe in that,” said Keaveney. “The full-back takes him and it’s his job. Now he can work out something with his other two corner-backs but I wouldn’t put two players on him. At that level, what’s the other player you’re supposed to be marking going to do? He could easily cause you a lot of problems then. I think Rory is quite capable of handling him. Rory has been playing very well. Rory is well disciplined and he would know exactly O’Shea’s tricks and things like that and be prepared for him. I’ve no major concerns there.”
What is a major concern for Dublin this week is the form of Michael Darragh MacAuley. The midfielder rampaged his way through the 2013 campaign when Dublin won the All-Ireland title at Mayo’s expense, later earning Footballer of the Year award.
But by the player’s own admission, he has been struggling for form this summer and was dropped for the quarter-final against Fermanagh, the first time he was overlooked based on form alone since the 2010 campaign.
“I would start him there but that’s up to Jim Gavin and his selectors,” said Keaveney. “To be honest, I don’t foresee many changes from the last day.”
Diarmuid Connolly, a club-mate of Keaveney’s at St Vincent’s and a potential game-breaker whenever he plays, is certain to start at Croke Park. Keaveney has been hugely impressed by the growing maturity of the playmaker who had a reputation for losing his cool earlier in his career.
“He’s a fella who is well disciplined now, it might have been a case that, at one stage, he wasn’t, but he’s totally disciplined now and he’s putting it all into the game,” said Keaveney. “To me, he’s one of the finds for Dublin for many years. He’s a great kid.
“Diarmuid has realised his ability and I don’t think he wants to throw anything away now through indiscipline.”
With Kerry already through to next month’s final and the title race now down to just three, Keaveney believes Dublin remain favourites to claim a third title in five seasons.
“Mayo have a good team but I think the Dublin set-up right now is just amazing,” said the two-time Footballer of the Year. “When I look through the team, they’ve a great defence, a great goalkeeper, great forwards and a very good midfield and they’ve a bench where a lot of the players would get on most county teams. And of course, they’ve a great manager in Jim Gavin.
“People ask if they’re undercooked? That’s the only thing. They haven’t been tested in Leinster and the first big test really is coming up on Sunday. But, in saying that, they’re all experienced players with a good manager and he’ll be able to talk to them and let them know what’s coming. I hope everything works out but I think it’s theirs to lose.”
Another St Vincent’s colleague of Keaveney’s, Ger Brennan, was a high profile absentee at this stage of last year’s championship when his commanding presence at centre-back was sorely missed as Donegal picked Dublin apart during a famous win.
Brennan recently confirmed he won’t play at all this summer either due to long-term injury problems and it remains to be seen how they cope in the area this time.
“It’s tough on Ger, I’ve great time for him,” said Keaveney. “He’s got a serious injury at the moment and the word is that he’s out for the season alright. But once he’s fit, he’s worth his place on the team. He’s strong, one of the strongest players I know and he’d go through a wall for you. But it’s nothing new to Dublin that he’s not there, they’ve planned for it all summer and they’re looking quite solid there.”