Michael Dara Macauley primed for Cork showdown
Dublin’s midfield maestro not taking ‘team to beat’ for granted
Michael Dara Macauley: “It’s going to be an interesting match.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
No one could have guessed at the time, least of all Michael Dara Macauley himself, that scoring Dublin’s third goal just 16 minutes into Sunday’s meeting with Tyrone would prove so crucial in getting them over the line first
to set up a semi-final showdown this Sunday against Cork.
The fact Dublin held on, by a single point, could effectively be traced to their explosive opening, even if the victory was ultimately sealed by Diarmuid Connolly’s breath-taking point at the end. Either way it booked Dublin their ticket back to Croke Park this Sunday for the second of the double-header of Allianz Football League semi-finals with Mayo against Derry up first.
“I can’t even remember the goal myself,” said Macaulay, “though I am getting awful abuse on Twitter over it, so . . . I presume it was brilliant.”
Macaulay’s presumption might have been in jest, but his goal was indeed brilliant – deftly volleyed into the Tyrone net after a pass from Kevin McManamon. It might have been ended a little too close for Dublin’s comfort, but it’s left Macauley looking forward to another crack at Cork, one of only two teams to beat the defending league champions earlier in the campaign.
“It was a tight one, in the end, but we had a dream start, and sometimes it is kind of difficult when you do get a run like that to hold on. We were expecting a fight back from Tyrone, and they gave us that and . . . we showed a bit of resolve to hold out in the match in the way that we did.”
Indeed it was reminiscent of their ding-dong battle with Tyrone in last year’s league final, where Dublin’s self-belief also helped them win out. “I think a lot comes down to the history we’ve had with that team, and difficult games we have come through as a unit before,” said Macauley.
“A lot of this team have been together for a while now, and are after coming through All-Ireland finals, semi-finals and quarter finals, and all that memory is in your bank. When you are down in a game you can either drop your head and say this game is beyond us, or else you draw off that mental resolve you have from other game. And I suppose that is definitely something we have in this team. But you have to have it that never-say-die attitude if you want to go anywhere. It would have been very easy of us to throw in the towel at a certain point on Sunday, and the week before (against Mayo), but in fairness the lads came back strong and we finished out the game and showed a good bit of heart in doing it.”
Dublin will need to bring that same attitude into the Cork game, who topped Division One, recording a 10-point win over rivals Kerry on Sunday: “Yeah, Cork have definitely been the team to beat this year,” said Macauley. “They’ve a huge panel . . . It’s going to be an interesting match.
“And in fairness were a very tough team to play against in Croke Park a few weeks ago. It’s hard to know if it’s a completely different style, but there’s a lot of different players there that we wouldn’t be as used to from playing against now. It’s a big ask come Sunday but all we can do is give it our best.”
The current footballer of the year, it seems, is already missing one of his now former rivals, Kildare’s Johnny Doyle, who announced his retirement on Sunday after 15 years with his county.
“Johnny was an exceptional footballer, definitely one of the best I’ve played against . . . He’s a big loss, a big loss for the game in general, for Leinster football and for Kildare. I suppose he would have loved to get his hands on the elusive Celtic Cross . . . but it just wasn’t to be. But I think Johnny can look back and definitely be very proud of his career.”
In hurling, the Division 1B relegation/promotion playoff between Offaly and Kerry will take place at Semple Stadium this Saturday at 6.30pm.