Strength in depth drives Dublin onwards

Once renowned as a county that stuttered short of the finish line, Dublin’s ability to pick up the pace as the final whistle approaches has taken the team to the pinnacle of the modern game.

Time and again Jim Gavin’s men have slipped through the gears in the final quarter. More often than not that late push has served only to widen the gap between them and their opponents on the scoreboard.

Not so much against Kerry in this year’s semi-final, when the champions’ ability to engineer six points in reply to the Munster side’s solitary effort edged a classic game in their favour.

It’s a handy habit even if Darren Daly isn’t sure where they picked it up.

“I don’t know,” said the Fingal Ravens defender. “We drill it into ourselves to keep going til the end, but I think it could come down to the strength in depth of the panel.

“We just don’t want to come on to fit in, we want to take it up a level. Obviously we have fresh legs fitting into a system, but we want to take it up a notch and inject a bit of pace and that has been happening.”

That surge against the Kingdom served as proof that this Dublin team maintains the requisite hunger to claim a first back-to-back series of All-Ireland titles since their famed predecessors in 1977. That strength in depth is undoubtedly playing its part in maintaining the drive.

Daly’s situation sums up the strength of that collective drive.

Now 29, he already has three All-Ireland medals, five Leinsters and four National Leagues to his credit but he pushes on regardless, despite the intermittent action he sees through the summers.

Eleven minutes against Laois in their championship opener, 14 in the Leinster final defeat of Westmeath, and another 22 facing Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final has been his lot this time. He went unused the other two afternoons.

It takes a certain headspace to process that and keep on keeping on.

“Yeah, you definitely have to stay positive. I have been in the same sort of position for the last couple of finals: played the quarters, didn’t play the semis, lucky enough to get on in the finals.

“I know by staying positive the chance can arise. Everyone has their own goals, all looking towards the collective goal. But whether the goal is that you want a few minutes or you are starting, you know what you are chasing.”

Jack McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll both made the decision last year that they weren’t going to chase another title this time around and their absence continues to serve as a perceived point of weakness in Dublin’s armour.

Daly has heard all that and the suggestion that those high, diagonal balls into the full-back line could prove to be the most profitable path to take for opponents, but he has yet to see any evidence of decay in that department.

“They have done pretty well, in fairness,” said Daly of the rejigged back line. “We were hearing a lot about it at the start of the year, but we always believed the strength in depth of our panel is huge.

“Look at Davey Byrne coming in there and flying. You have to have that belief in everyone that is on the panel. Listen, we are in an All- Ireland final so it hasn’t gone too bad.”

Meanwhile, Kevin McStay’s reign in charge of Roscommon footballers has come under serious threat with former U21 manager Nigel Dineen stepping forward to challenge him and claim he is the best person to bring them forward.

McStay’s intentions remain unknown after his joint manager Fergal O’Donnell, who guided Roscommon to the 2006 All-Ireland minor title, stepped down last week.

Roscommon county board them made it clear that McStay and any other candidate would need to be nominated by the clubs and go through an interview process for the job.

The emergence at the weekend of Dineen, who won a Connacht SFC title with Roscommon in 2001 and who managed them to reach two All-Ireland U21 finals against Dublin, has cast serious doubt over McStay being in charge for 2017.

McStay, who took charge this season with O’Donnell for what was meant to be a three-year term, has not indicated whether he will now go forward for the position.

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