GAA Football

Dublin to leave the Rossies feeling woozy

SQUAD GAME: All eyes will be on whether or not Diarmuid Connolly is included in Jim Gavin's squad after his return to training Picture: Seamus Loughran
By Padraig Kelly

ALL-IRELAND SFC QUARTER-FINAL GROUP TWO: Dublin v Roscommon (tonight, Croke Park, 7pm, live on Sky Sports Arena)

DUBLIN'S last two games have provided yet another insight into why the gap between them and many other counties remains so vast as they prepare to meet Roscommon at Croke Park this evening.

Jim Gavin's team were not totally dominant against either Meath or Cork. Their opponents had periods when they had plenty of possession and both were able to get into promising positions in the scoring zone. Dublin defeated Meath by 16 points and Cork by 13.

While the Royal's embarrassing conversion rate of 18 percent took away any competiveness from the Leinster final, Cork really were in the game for most of last week's Croke Park Super 8 encounter.

Overall Ronan McCarthy's side created 23 scoring chances from play to Dublin's 24. After 55 minutes, they trailed the All-Ireland champions by just three points. They were doing everything they possibly could to match their heralded opponents.

However, in the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time, Dublin out-scored the Munster finalists 3-4 to 0-3 with Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton all finding the net.

That's been the trademark of this Dublin team since Gavin came on board in 2012 – those 10 or 15-minute spells when they can leave their opponents feeling woozy with a combination of quick-fire goals and points.

The teams they come up against are well aware of the threat but few find a way to combat it. Anthony Cunningham's Roscommon will be the latest to try and find a way in this so-called neutral venue fixture.

Who knows? They may even have to deal with Diarmuid Connolly at some stage following his return to Dublin training this week after visa issues prevented him from playing football in the United States this summer.

The St Vincent's clubman hasn't played Championship football since the 2017 All-Ireland final win over Mayo and common wisdom is that tomorrow's game will be too soon, but if Dublin are miles ahead late on it could be the perfect opportunity to get his comeback completed in a low pressure situation.

The Rossies aren't even in the top 20 when it comes to best defensive records this season but there has been an improvement from League to Championship. In the spring they were conceding an average of over 17 points per game but that's down to 14.5 for the Championship. We await to see if he makes the matchday 26.

Tyrone did manage 0-17 against them last week but Mickey Harte's side only hit five wides across the 70 minutes and were incredibly productive when working it from back to front.

Thirteen points was disappointing at the other end though with their starting attack managing just four points from play between them.

Their manager is hoping the opposition and the surroundings can inspire his troops this weekend.

“A football inter-county player who trains for almost 12 months of the year, what do they want to do, what's the pinnacle of their career? It's to play the best, in the best places,” Cunningham said.

He also spoke about tidying things up and it's those small details that are preventing them from getting closer to the likes of Tyrone and Dublin.

How often do you see the top Super 8 teams taking the wrong option? Very rarely.

Roscommon are not quite there yet as demonstrated in the key moment in their four-point loss to Tyrone last week.

In the 34th minute and with Tyrone two points up, Enda Smith broke in along the sideline and was one-on-one with Niall Morgan.

The angle was incredibly tight. The right option was to fist across goal to leave Niall Kilroy with the easy palm to the net. The wrong option was to back himself to get the better of the angle. He took the wrong option and Niall Morgan was able to deflect the ball away.

Those are the small differences that leave Roscommon on the brink of Super 8 elimination.

Indeed their destiny could be sealed by the time they take to the pitch tonight. A win over Dublin is almost impossible so they really need Cork to get the better of Tyrone in the curtain-raiser.

Dublin will also be looking to tidy up tonight. They haven't been at their brilliant best over the last couple of games and Gavin will be expecting an improvement in certain sectors tonight.

A semi-final spot will be sealed though before their trip to Omagh in two weeks' time. The drive for five will not be slowing down tonight anyway.

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