Despite some lacklustre performances this summer, Pat Gilroy has no doubts about Dublin’s hunger going into Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo.
The reigning All-Ireland winning manager was certainly talking his team up in yesterday’s press conference at the same time expressing his confidence Alan Brogan (groin) will be available for selection on Thursday evening.
He says it won’t be for the lack of appetite that Dublin will be found wanting in five days’ time.
“We haven’t clicked up front but there has been satisfaction that at the start of the year we wanted to be in an All-Ireland semi-final and we are. It’s not easy sometimes for All-Ireland champions to get to that stage, but I certainly think our hunger for it and fellas’ willingness to work has been excellent and I don’t think that’s going to catch us.”
While he reckons Mayo in the 2006 semi-final showed they have no fear of Dublin traditionally, he takes some comfort for how well Dublin have been motoring in training of late.
Last year, they showed they could bridge a four-week break from the Leinster final to the All-Ireland quarter-final with a clinical performance against Tyrone.
Faced with a similar gap going into Sunday’s game from the Laois game, Gilroy is happy with his side’s preparations and the intensity of those acclaimed internal training games.
“I felt before the last game that there were signs that things were going to go well for us, particularly up front.
“It just didn’t happen but there have been a lot of positive things in the last couple of weeks. Those (internal) games are very competitive and there is nothing given, not an inch is given.
“Lads are starting to score in those games. If they are scoring in those games then it’s a good sign for us.”
Gilroy also stressed Bernard Brogan has only been substituted twice in the last three SFC games due to exhaustion. “He’s going well, and I’d be very confident he’ll give a good performance this weekend.”
After a groin injury ruled him out of the Laois game, the return of Bernard’s older brother Alan to training since the weekend before last, playing three A v B games in that time-span, is a welcome boost for Gilroy.
“He didn’t play in the inside line (vs Laois) and that’s where we missed most of our opportunities. There was a lot of wasteful shooting in there but the one thing that he does do when he is playing a bit further out is that he gets you that score when you have two or three wides in a row. I think we missed that aspect of him.”
This past weekend, The Sunday Game showed how Mayo honed in on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs in the league game which the Connacht champions won by 12 points.
Gilroy expects more of the same on this forthcoming occasion.
“If I was playing against Dublin, that’s what I’d do. But I think Mayo’s main real dominance the last day was in the middle of the field. They just crushed down eventually in the middle of the field and if they do that against us we will be in trouble too.
“If you are beaten at midfield you are under severe pressure so it will be a big ask for us to get that right and we have done a lot of work to try and deal with it.”
Last week, Mayo manager James Horan mentioned the talk about referee Joe McQuillan’s appointment for the game and his “familiarity” with Dublin.
Gilroy believes the level of officiating this summer has been “very consistent”.
“They have made it clear that they are going to stop a number of things like people standing in front of frees and checking runners. I think that has made the games flow a lot better and I think the referees have done a good job. The lads they are picking for quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals are generally very good.
“The only comments I have heard really are problems with injury-time and I think they are only following the rules. We couldn’t have any arguments with referees.”
Meanwhile, Michael Darragh Macauley admitted the “annihilation” that was inflicted on Dublin in Castlebar in March won’t be far from his thoughts on Sunday.
“It’s definitely something you can’t ignore and the lads remember. We have to set that wrong right this weekend. It was the biggest hammering I ever got in the Dublin jersey so I suppose these things don’t come lightly. Things obviously weren’t going right if we were losing by that many points.”
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