Football

Doubters will not affect Dublin's search for six: Cian O'Sullivan

Dublin defender Cian O'Sullivan in action against Kerry. Pic Philip Walsh
Dublin defender Cian O'Sullivan in action against Kerry. Pic Philip Walsh

NEW manager, new/old knockout format, going out of their Croke Park comfort zone to face unpredictable Division Two opponents with dangerous forwards...

Those elements leading some to suggest Dublin are at their most vulnerable in perhaps a decade are stacking up – but Cian O'Sullivan insists the doubters won't be a motivating factor for the five-in-a-row All-Ireland champs as they travel to O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, to face Westmeath this Saturday evening:

"I don't think so, we never looked to outside influences or external stuff to motivate us. It's always been about what's within the four walls of the team to be our source of motivation and that's no different this year to what it was last year, regardless of the fact that we were going for five-in-a-row.

"People probably thought that was what our main focus was but it wasn't, and it wasn't in previous years either. It was about winning championships. That approach hasn't changed at all.

"We can only influence what's in the four walls of our team rooms. We've adopted that approach in the past however many years and it's stood to us well and we'll be taking that approach going forward. We don't pay too much interest in the stuff going on outside."

Equally, the Kilmacud Croke's clubman is adamant that Dublin won't be complacent, even against a county that they've beaten by an average of more than 16 points over their last seven Championship meetings – including a 31-point thrashing three years ago.

With a new man in charge - former U21 manager Dessie Farrell having taken over after Jim Gavin stepped down as boss – there'll definitely be no looking back to past triumphs, says O'Sullivan:

"It's not something we'll be referencing. Obviously that'll be referenced outside and those outside influences are something that you're always trying to guard against so they don't eat into the team and throw guys' focus off what the task in hand is.

"We've been pretty good managing that in previous seasons and it's really stood to us well. Dessie has come in this year and it's a new management team and there's a freshness and newness to it.

"He's very well tuned to all of that stuff and very like Jim in that regard. It's more of the same for us really this year. We've had similar potential distractions like that in seasons gone past and we've always dealt with them very well so I expect the same going forward this year."

The format is very different this year, and the timing too, so O'Sullivan knows that squad management will be vital if teams want to avoid muscular injuries:

"Yeah, completely, even the way the Championship is structured with the amount of games and how quick they're coming, the soft tissue injury thing is going to be a massive thing for squads to manage.

"I think the depth of squads is going to be really important. You're not going to have your starting 15 being the same for every game, you're going to have to rotate squads…

"We saw it with our club championships - a lot of teams, once they got their hands on their players they were just flogging them trying to get them fit for the first couple of rounds of championship. No surprises then that they were laden with injuries.

"It was the club teams that managed that a bit better and that didn't flog lads at the very start that seemed to get a bit more success and a bit more continuity with their players.

"I think the same approach is going to be taken with this Championship. Again, it's another difference to what we're used to in previous years. There's so many things about this campaign that are different and unique but I think that's what makes it so exciting and that's what players are really getting energised about."