Dublin GAA Croke Park

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The one thing we know for certain about Sunday is that we are going to get a serious test off Kildare at Croke Park. And there’s no one in the Dublin camp under any illusions about just how tough this Leinster semi-final is going to be.


The league game between us in March hasn’t been mentioned once. We might have pulled away from them in the second half that day, but it was just one of those games where we got a run of scores at a crucial time. The league has been put away for 2013 and the sole focus has been on the more significant recent meetings we’ve had in the Championship.

The fact is, there was only a kick of a ball between us in 2009 and again in 2011 when we got the rub of the green to escape with a late free and I don’t believe there will be much between Dublin and Kildare when we meet again this Sunday.The scoreboard might have said that we had a big win over Westmeath in the last round but inside our dressing room it threw up a number of areas for us to work on and we are constantly looking to improve our performance.

We conceded far too many frees at the back and squandered too many chances up front and we will be made pay a high price against Kildare if we repeat those mistakes.Kildare are always a tough team to play against because they have quality footballers who are very physical and the fact that they have so many gifted young players now featuring on the team from a successful u21 team in Leinster means they will hold no fear of playing Dublin at Croke Park.

You have to be impressed with the work that Kieran McGeeney has done there since 2008. They have a great record of always being in the last eight in the Championship, they are always strong and athletic and I think everyone regards a clash with Kildare as a barometer of how strong their challenge is and we are no different.

John Doyle has been Kildare’s talisman for the last 10 years and continues to inspire them and I know only too well what sort of an influence he can be in a dressing room.I remember when I was 18 or 19 playing for Maynooth before a Sigerson Cup game and John came in to talk to the team and everyone was in awe of him and the passion and the presence of the man.

So I’ve seen at first-hand how he can instil great belief in players and he backs that up with his performances on the pitch. He has nothing to prove as a top quality footballer and there’s never a day when he doesn’t give them everything he has.

The two Flynn’s were very impressive at midfield against Offaly – especially the strong running from Daniel and they are a major threat.Niall Kelly has exploded onto the scene at centre forward for Kildare this year and for an U21 player he has shown a lot of composure. He is wiry but very accurate and if you give him any space he will hurt you if he gets the chance.

I’m enjoying my football under Jim Gavin. It’s a different challenge to what we had before under Pat Gilroy but you need new challenges in life and it is enjoyable. Jim has his ideas on how he wants us to play and he trusts the players to do that on the field and you know that if you don’t deliver what is expected of you there is someone else who will come in.

There has been a lot of emphasis on the new shape of the Dublin defence but the primary job back there is still to defend and stop your man from scoring. What happens after that might be a new system we are working on but those of us who play at the back are well aware of what our primary role has to be and we are always looking to improve. This is a great week to be involved. There are winter nights where the training is tough and it would be easy to feel sorry for yourself, but this is why we put those hours of preparation in – to be ready for a big challenge like Kildare.

To be a part of a Dublin senior football team is a privilege you can’t buy in any shop and you have to honour that by going out and trying to do your very best. The recent injury to Tomas Brady also makes you realise how grateful you have to be to be healthy and have this chance and to make the most of your time in this team. It was devastating for Tomas to do his cruciate after he had put in such a massive effort during the year. But I have no doubt he will be back trying to fight his way back onto this team.

I’m enjoying my football more than ever before because I know that time is precious. The minor and the U21 lads on the team don’t see that big picture which is good too because youthful abandon is a good ingredient to have where young players go out and enjoy and express themselves.

It’s all about finding a balance and it has worked well for us so far. But we know that Sunday will give us a very clear picture of where we are at this summer.

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