O'Carroll hoping Dublin 'click' on Sunday
GAVIN CUMMISKEYgets the views of the Dublin full back ahead of Sunday’s semi-final encounter at Croke Park
THERE IS no need to go on about Rory O’Carroll’s abilities as a full back.
It’s established that this young man has the essential attributes required to thrive in the most unforgiving position.
Opponents are aware that to break O’Carroll on the square’s edge is going a long way to rupturing Dublin.
Not that he will be isolated back there anymore. That’s no longer the Dublin way.
Still, don’t be surprised to see Mayo’s powerful, yet immensely skilful midfielder Aidan O’Shea sent towards O’Carroll at some stage on Sunday.
Neither is there much need to delve into O’Carroll’s past – the trip to Thailand mid-championship 2009 or the year studying in France, returning just in time for Dublin’s glorious championship run last summer – simply because his level of performance never dips.
And he will continue to grow stronger and more influential as the years roll in. That’s presuming the wanderlust has subsided on completion of a UCD degree in History and French.
But there is a problem with Dublin this year that O’Carroll can see all too clearly from the perch behind his team-mates. If they rediscover the form that delivered the All-Ireland last year, Mayo should be dispatched. If not, there could be a repeat of the 2006 nightmare.
“We stumbled to a semi-final, you might say, without really playing particularly well,” O’Carroll said.
“In one sense it is not a bad thing but in another sense when you are playing Mayo and they are on top form, basically, if we don’t click we won’t win. That’s what we are trying to drill into ourselves.”
In last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, Dublin exploded, with Diarmuid Connolly inspiring a clinical victory over Tyrone, but this time around they looked awfully shabby as they struggled to see off a game Laois side.
The Sam Maguire hangover theory continues to be bandied about but what does O’Carroll think is wrong with Dublin?
“It’s not just one thing; it’s a combination of factors. Other teams are getting better. We haven’t really progressed that much.
“We only won the All-Ireland by, some might say, a fluky point. It wasn’t as if there was that much between us and everyone else in the first place so we really need to step up because at the moment if we go the way we are going we won’t progress to the final.”
Not that he means Stephen Cluxton’s point was a fluke, more the manner in which they reversed Kerry’s four-point lead down the stretch.
Dublin’s harrowing defeat to Mayo in the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final was such an open, long -kicking spectacle that it has very little bearing on the upcoming meeting. April’s league encounter over in Castlebar, however, still resonates, especially the 0-20 to 0-8 scoreline for Mayo.
“They trounced us, won by 13 points [12, but still]. Pat Gilroy was saying during the week if they are playing that well in the league they are obviously going to step it up in the championship so if we don’t click they could beat us by 26 points.
“We weren’t shocked at their performance, more disappointed in ourselves that we didn’t put up more of a fight. Pat said it, if we were even this much [an inch] off they would hammer us and that’s what happened. We were a bit more than that. We know Mayo are well capable of doing that to any team.”
That said, it is worth looking at the number of changes in Gilroy’s team since April.
O’Carroll should have regular corner backs, Michael Fitzsimons and Philly McMahon, either side of him, while Denis Bastick and Eamon Fennell return along with Paul Flynn, Alan and Bernard Brogan.
That’s a significant list of players.
In contrast, Mayo have lost Andy Moran to injury and Conor Mortimer, who landed eight points in the league game, quit James Horan’s panel earlier this summer.
A few weeks ago the Dublin players headed south to their ancient nemesis’ back garden for a few days. More a chance to enjoy each other’s company away from city life than seeking inspiration from Kerry’s football giants (although a few pints were supped in Páidí Ó Sé’s well-known establishment).
“It was more team bonding; we went swimming once or twice and then saw Fungi the dolphin, went to the cinema.
“More a nice relaxing weekend, we did a bit of training but nothing too hectic.
“We went to Páidí Ó Sé’s one night as well. He was serving us, great host, very nice man.”