BY KEN DOHERTY
As I write this I am still in Thailand but what a great week it has been thanks to Dublin’s win over Mayo.
It gave me a great spring in my step these past days as I’ve met scores of Irish people where the talk never takes long to turn to football or hurling.
I was nervous before the Mayo match but by the time it was over, I was pretty confident that we can go all the way this year.
That is not to discount the very real challenge that Monaghan will pose to Dessie Farrell’s boys on Saturday afternoon but they are too seasoned a bunch to take the Ulster team for granted.
WIth Cluxton, Mannion, McCaffrey back and with the new lads like Pasquel, Bugler and even Costello becoming leaders in the forward line, there is a real freshness about the Dublin play.
Throw in the fact that Ciaran Kilkenny came on as a sub and played really well and you can see the competition for place will ensure there is no complacency this weekend.
Monaghan are often praised for punching above their weight for the population it has but it is true that they fight the good fight every time they pull on the white and blue jersey.
The difference I feel will be in the strength in depth of Farrell’s bench. He can bring in the likes of Kilkenny or if he starts Niall Scully while the real good news is that Con O’Callaghan has yet to hit his stride – and when he does that, it makes Dublin even harder to compete against.
Stephen Cluxton may be in his forties but he made a wonder save against Mayo while his kickouts are still the best in the business. That is a huge plus and it will be interesting to see how Vinny Corey plans to cope with either putting on a press or allowing the Dubs’ defenders free access to his restarts.
Overall, I must say I am becoming a big fan of the new short, sharp season where it is hurling one week and football the next with the intercounty season all over in 2023 by the end of this month.
I know traditionalists bemoan the fact that we are starved of big games in August and September but it is really important that clubs players have good weather to complete their seasons.
Going back to the Dubs performance against Mayo, what I liked most about their display is the way they stepped up their intensity in the second half to leave their opponents chasing shadows.
Even when the game was well and truly over, they didn’t let up and that ruthless streak is something that hasn’t been there as much in the league and earlier rounds of the championship.
Like most people, I’m seeing the final as another Dublin v Kerry battle and while that is unfair on Monaghan and Derry, it is hard to not see the old firm lining out on July 30.
If that is the case, there won’t be much more than a kick of the ball between the two sides. Kerry have great forwards with the two Cliffords and Seanie O’Shea but Dublin will have the better overall team, provided the likes of Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton, O’Callaghan, Costello and the super confident Colm Basquel step up on the big occasion.
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