The tepid showing of Jim Gavin’s second string in Sunday’s Super 8 win over Tyrone has ‘demystified Dublin’, says former Armagh star Tony McEntee. And he believes Mayo are well capable of ending Dublin’s five-in-a-row hopes in next Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
McEntee served as a selector with Stephen Rochford when Mayo lost the 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland finals to Dublin. And he feels Sunday’s performance shows the All-Ireland champions no longer have the strength in depth that proved critical in deciding those finals.
“I think we learned from Sunday’s game that Dublin do not have the reserves that everyone wants to believe they have,” McEntee said, on the Irish Examiner GAA Championship podcast.
“I think they are a weaker team than last year and all the three teams remaining have a good opportunity of beating this Dublin team. And I think it’s demystified the supposed broad depth of that bench that Dublin have.
“That’s been the difference in the games with Mayo in ‘16 and ‘17, those subs coming off the bench — Cormac Coatello or Kevin McManamon or whoever. While their 15 is a very strong 15, and maybe 16 and 17, I’m not sure the reserves are there.
Now James McCarthy is coming back. He’s a proper Rolls Royce of a footballer. He’ll have benefitted from that game.
“But Mayo’s’ six defenders are absolutely capable of taking the six Dublin forwards in outright man to man marking. After that it’s about Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy and Brian Fenton.
“And we have seen that Mayo can put pressure on Cluxton’s kickout. And force him into 50-50 balls. And Mayo are well capable of winning those 50-50 balls.
“So Mayo have every opportunity to beat this Dublin team in Croke Park, a Dublin team that has not been tested so far this year, a Dublin team that has questions over them, a Dublin team that is going for five in a row, which is a distraction. You cannot hide that from players.”
With both teams already qualified for the semi-final stage, Jim Gavin took the opportunity to give several senior Dublin squad players a start against Tyrone, as well as reintroduce Diarmuid Connolly. But McEntee says none of them did enough to force their way into the first 15.
“What I saw was twilight appearances of Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara and quite a number of players. Rory O’Carroll and so on. I don’t think we’ll see any of them again. This was an opportunity for a last run-out for those players.
“Diarmuid didn’t offer enough. He’s only back three weeks. Personally, I think it’s absolutely crazy, the entire exercise. But Jim knows better than me.”