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McMahon not paying attention to outside narratives as Dubs focus on All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo

20/7/2019 Dublins Philip Mc Mahon Picture Seamus Loughran.
BY PAUL KEANE

A WEEK after losing to Dublin in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-finals, Sean Cavanagh spoke at a media event and tipped Tyrone's conquerors to go on and complete the five-in-a-row.

"I actually think they could possibly even win eight out of 10," suggested Cavanagh, blown away by the quality and ferocity of Dublin's performance and writing off the remainder of the decade for everyone else.

Dublin ultimately delivered on Cavanagh's prediction by completing the six-in-a-row last December, their eighth title in 10 seasons but they finally appear to be faltering now. For the first time since anyone can remember, they're only second favourites for this year's All-Ireland, behind Kerry.

Philly McMahon has been there every step of the way, from defying the odds by beating Kerry in 2011, to consistently living up to their favourites billing in the intervening years, to the current, apparent, difficulties ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo.

"It is not something that I would really pay a huge amount of attention to, so whether you are sitting here telling me that we are the favourites and we are going to hammer everyone or you're saying that we are slipping and we are underdogs, that's just other people's narratives," said defender McMahon.

"That's just other people's assumptions. That's not us. That's not what we're about. What we do ourselves, we've built it into our DNA over years so whether we go on and beat Mayo, or whether we lose to Mayo, it won't be because people told us that we were the favourites or not."

We should probably place inverted commas around the word difficulties because while Dublin didn't win any of their provincial Championship games by double-digit margins as they're used to, they still retained the title with 22 points to spare overall.

Those picking holes in their performances have pointed to the shaky start against Division Four side Wexford, getting outscored 1-7 to 0-5 in the second-half against Meath and their generally humdrum Leinster final performance against Kildare. Others, including Mayo great Andy Moran, have claimed they're simply 'bored' and will kick into gear this weekend when it really matters.

McMahon nods at the suggestion that perhaps those predicting Dublin's downfall are guilty of wishful thinking.

"I would make an assumption that that would be the case," said the eight-time All-Ireland medallist.

"Time will tell. They are all assumptions, whether they are false assumptions or not, that is not for me to say. We have got a really important game against Mayo in the semi-final and there is no doubt that we need to be at a really high level of performance.

"We have to make sure we have everybody putting their foot to the floor in terms of what they can bring on the day. For me, what has gone does not really matter, it is what is in front of us right now that is very important.

"We are very lucky in that we have always stayed grounded regardless of the narrative that is out there and we have always understood what we represent. It's more important for us what's inside the circle than what is outside of it."

What's certain is that Dublin are a different team, more cerebral and strategic, happy to retain possession, play rope-a-dope and sting when the opportunity presents itself. Maybe that was inevitable after losing the flair and vision of Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion, Stephen Cluxton and, to a lesser extent, Diarmuid Connolly within the last year or so. To the layman, it all looks very pre-programmed.

"I'm not sure," retorted McMahon who, just shy of his 34th birthday, is an impact sub these days. "The Championship so far, for me, has been really good. It has been really interesting because I watch the game differently. I don't watch the game as a spectator, I watch it as a player.

"I'm looking at it and saying, 'Oh, that's interesting'. I'm thinking about the way teams set up, the way players play and definitely I think the two semi-finals are going to be really good.

"I've no doubt Mayo will do everything they can to try to outperform us and get the result. And so will we."

The 24,000 crowd and anticipated return of Dublin supporters to the Hill 16 terrace should work in the holders' favour.

"When you look across and see Hill 16 empty, you get the sense of 'Wouldn't it be great to have fans there' and you think how much energy it would give everybody," said McMahon. "Not just us but the opposing team as well."

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