Cork will “test Dublin’s pulse” this week, insists former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice, who suspects Jim Gavin’s side aren’t moving as well as their manager would like in the quest for a fifth All-Ireland title in a row.
Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Championship Podcast, Fitzmaurice said: “We’re all almost subconsciously handing Dublin Sam Maguire at the moment. But I don’t see it like that. I don’t think they are going as well and I don’t think you can flick a switch.
“Of course they are at a different level. For the last couple of years, I was always hoping there was a chink of light there, but I’ve definitely seen a chink this year more than any other year.
“I think Cork will test their pulse this weekend. They’re coming in with momentum and a game under their belt. Dublin are coming in cold.”
Dublin failed to make the Allianz League final this season for the first time in Jim Gavin’s reign, having won four of the previous five leagues. And Fitzmaurice dismisses the theory they consciously scaled back their effort this spring.
“The way they approached the league, a lot of commentary has been that they did that on purpose, they didn’t. That’s not the way Jim Gavin works.
He would have wanted to win every game and win the league and do what they have been doing the last five years and all the years he’s been in charge.
Dublin face Cork in Croke Park on Saturday night in Group 2 of the Super 8s and Fitzmaurice believes the visitors must pressurise Dublin’s kickouts to capitalise on any uncertainty in the champions’ camp.
“I think a lot will come down to the kickouts. Where you feel the athleticism of Dublin is when they are winning their kickout uncontested and they are on the move and it’s so orchestrated. We all know what’s going to happen but it’s so hard to deal with and you are going in the opposite direction.
“If Cork can get any bit of a handle at all on the Cluxton kickout and make it some way difficult for him, and secure their own kickout, they will really test them then.”
The All-Ireland winning player and manager points out an inexperienced Cork side will not carry some of the mental scars that inhibited previous Cork sides.
“In Kerry we are doing a lot of talk about our young team, but that Cork team is very young as well. They have a couple of veteran players, but a load of that Cork team made their championship debuts in 2016, 27, 18, 19.
“They are a young and coming team and a lot of them won’t have the baggage of the last couple of years. And when you have that devil-may-care attitude going up to Croke Park, you can be a dangerous proposition.”
Fitzmaurice still expects Dublin to win the game — “but I don’t see it being a blowout”.
Meanwhile, former Cork star Patrick Kelly, also speaking on the podcast, believes a six or seven-point defeat to Dublin wouldn’t inflict too much damage on Cork’s momentum or confidence.
Cork were hugely impressive against Laois. Things might not go so well against Dublin.
"The athleticism of Dublin will be a shock to the system for some Cork players. But they’re going the right way, whatever happens after this.”