It’s a safe bet to say Paul Galvin and the Cork footballers agreed on very little over the years.
But when it comes to the suggestion that the two counties’ common enemy, Dublin, have moved out into a league of their own, they both reject it wholeheartedly.
Recently retired Kerry icon Galvin balked earlier this week at the notion that the league and All-Ireland champions, who possess a perfect Division One record this year, are leaving their rivals in their wake.
“If they win again this year, then you might say they are pulling away but that certainly remains to be seen,” said Galvin. “I don’t think the gap is as big as people might think.”
Cork will be the latest team to test Dublin’s mettle this weekend when they face them in Round Three of the Allianz League.
It is an early season table-topping battle between two sides with perfect records so far.
Cork captain Michael Shields, like Galvin, maintains Cork will have no inferiority complex when they arrive at Croke Park on Saturday evening.
Shields said: “I think they’ve definitely set standards but I don’t think they’ve reached heights that can’t be reached by anyone else out there.
“I think hard work, good strength and conditioning and good tactics, and a good football team of course, if you have all of those you’re going to be there or thereabouts.
“Like, you saw Mayo last year, they pushed Dublin right to the pin of their collars. Dublin responded so they’ve definitely raised the bar but in my opinion, they’re not too far off any of the other teams out there.”
Last summer, the difference between Dublin and Cork in Championship terms was five points. That’s what stood between them at the end of their All-Ireland quarter-final tie.
Shields said: “To be honest, I’ve watched the game back in recent times and it’s not all that bad. We created a lot of chances that night. We caused them problems in certain areas. It’s just probably fine-tuning a lot of things and working on other things this year. But I don’t think we’ll be far off. That’s my opinion.”
The early signs are good under new boss Brian Cuthbert, whose appointment dovetailed with a haemorrhaging of experienced talent as All-Ireland medallists including Graham Canty, Pearse O’Neill and Alan Quirke all opted to retire. Arguably the biggest setback of all though was losing Ciarán Sheehan to Aussie Rules as he’d shown with his superb high-fielding in the defeat to Dublin how important a player he could have been to Cork.
Shields made that move to Australia himself as a younger man but returned within a matter of months.
He’s been made Cork captain for this season but has been omitted from the team named to face Dublin and is unlikely to play any part.
That’s down to a knee injury picked up in the win over Westmeath which, at one point, looked as if it may have been a dreaded season ending cruciate problem.
Shields said: “The only thing that made me really fear was hearing a pop when it happened, something I hadn’t heard before and you hear all the other horror stories of fellas getting that (cruciate) injury in the same sort of circumstances. That was going through my mind going for the scan. But, luckily enough for me, that wasn’t the case. I’m back tonight training but considering the game is three days away, I’d say I’ll struggle to make it.”
Dublin-based DIT student Shields was speaking at the launch of the ‘Sam to the Summit’ charity challenge in aid of the Alan Kerins Projects fund.
Former Dublin footballer Barry Cahill attended the event and suggested that his county is perfectly placed to establish that period of dominance that Galvin and Shields fear.
Cahill said: “I think this Dublin group is by far the best equipped to do back-to-back All-Irelands than any other team for a number of years. A lot of the guys that were involved in 2011 and 2012, they understand the pitfalls of being champions and defending.
“In terms of the league, I think there’s a couple of key games for them. The Cork game this Saturday will be an interesting one and also the Kildare one the following week. Both of those teams have new managers and they will want to really test themselves against Dublin.”
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