Mayo game just a stepping-stone for McManamon and Dublin
Revenge for last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat not a factor as Dublin avail of good championship preparation opportunity
Kevin McManamon: “This is about giving lads more games, getting more game time in Croke Park, which is where you want to be playing.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The GAA never wastes much time in providing some sort of instant karma, or at least some familiar reprise, and so it goes with Dublin’s date with Mayo in Sunday’s semi-final of the Allianz Football League.
Not only does it come just over seven months since their All-Ireland semi-final, which Mayo held on to win by three-points, 0-19 to 0-16, ending Dublin’s reign as All-Ireland champions in the process, but the teams have nurtured a tasty rivalry in recent years anyway.
Any desire to avenge last September’s defeat is long since buried, according to Dublin forward Kevin McManamon, who appeared as a replacement for the injured Alan Brogan in that semi-final.
“Well, that was something that we tried to park at the start of the year,” said McManamon yesterday. “We were beaten by Mayo on the day, and fair play to them. It is not as if there is some revenge thing there.
“We played hard against them here in the league in what was a tight enough game. I know we ran away with it a bit in the end, but it could have gone either way.
“It is about preparing for the championship, and that is what has been on our agenda since we met up in December.
“It’s all about either Carlow or Westmeath, from here on, really. This is about giving lads more games, getting more game time in Croke Park, which is where you want to be playing.”
Manager Jim Gavin has been adamant Dublin will stick to their championship training programme, and won’t let Sunday’s game, or a potential league final, get in the way:
“What Jim means is that it’s about peaking for the summer, in terms of sharpness,” agreed McManamon.
“Training this week is all about winning on Sunday, but we won’t want to be as sharp yet as we would be this summer. But there is going to be a championship feel to Sunday, between ourselves and Mayo, and hopefully whoever gets to the final, there will be a championship feel to that.”
By drawing with Donegal on Sunday – or at least not losing – Dublin have retained much of the momentum of recent weeks, the defeat to Tyrone being the only blip, although McManamon is not ruling out Donegal as a force come the championship.
An extra layer
“I would imagine Jim McGuinness will try to add an extra layer or two to the game plan for the summer. But they didn’t seem to unleash anything on us yesterday [Sunday] that we weren’t expecting.
“If we didn’t break out of defence at top speed, their blanket defence was going to beat us. So we had to move the ball a lot shorter distances. It worked for us in patches.
“But I would imagine they slowed down their training regime a little bit to peak for summer. You are going so late in September that you don’t get as much a break as the rest of the teams.
“Sometimes, there might be things where the team isn’t fully functional that you might not notice until the championship. There were elements of that with us last year. We didn’t see it until it was too late to realise it.”
What McManamon has realised about the current Dublin set-up is competition for places is stronger than ever, and perhaps more importantly, forwards such as himself all feel as if they’re making an impact.
“With Pat Gilroy, he would have wanted more ball-winners than anything else. Jim wants all six forwards to be a threat, to be scoring, not just being workers. I’m not sure if we’ve been scoring more, but we’re getting a lot better spread of scorers up front.
“The great thing about Jim as well is he gives us licence to express ourselves. That’s what the guys want. The young lads like Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny, everyone else.
“Time will tell what will happen in the summer but I suppose, it makes you less predictable as well. I think there’s been a real urgency about, to make up for last year, and Jim trying to make his mark his well.
“There’s such great competition there now, and that’s what is working wonders, really.”