Dublin remain on course for an 11th consecutive Leinster title, as they continue their dominance of the eastern province.
But something has been amiss in the Sky Blues’ performances, as they overcame Wexford and Meath in recent weeks by eight and six points respectively.
Due to a cocktail of departures, retirements and injuries, there are a significant number of high-profile absences from Dessie Farrell’s panel.
So could they lose their first championship match since 2014 this summer?
“The teams we are speaking about will definitely take heart from what they might have seen at the weekend,” former Clare footballer Gary Brennan said on Inside The Game, pondering if the other seven remaining teams in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup will take hope from Dublin’s below-par performances.
“Dessie Farrell put it well after the game himself. He said, if the halves had been reversed and they played that ponderous way in the first half and had played the better half in the second half, they would probably be coming out of the game feeling a lot better.”
Dublin registered just two points in a 37-minute period during the second half against the Royals, and will need to improve if they are to retain their All-Ireland crown.
“The length of time they went without scoring is so un-Dublin-like,” Brennan continued.
“It’s not something we have associated with them over the last five or six years, and not something we would ever expect to see from that Dublin side.
“But when you look at the absentees, John Small, Eoin Murchan, Robbie McDaid, Kevin McManamon, Paul Mannion, [Stephen] Cluxton, [Eric] Lowndes, Paddy Andrews, Michael Darragh Macauley, Darren Daly, you cannot take that quality and experience out of a team and not expect it to have some effect.
“Even Kevin McManamon, I know from having read Bernard Brogan’s book, he actually leads a lot of the pre-match rehearsals and the psychological preparation that the team do, or he would have done in previous years. So I don’t know, with him being in Tokyo now working with athletes, has that been replaced? Maybe it’s not as effective when he’s not there. I don’t know. That’s speculation. But regardless, when you take that amount of quality and experience out of the team, it’s going to have an effect.
“I definitely think those teams who are looking for an opportunity are going to seize on that and see it. If Dublin go that length of time without scoring against teams of higher quality, I think they will be made to pay for it.”
You cannot take that quality and experience out of a team and not expect it to have some effect.
Brennan feels the drop in form is a symptom of the absences
Nonetheless, Kieran Donaghy feels that the men from the capital remain out in front of the chasing pack.
“Somebody has to go along and beat them,” said the former Kerry star.
“Until that day, they’re still number one in my eyes. Even when Meath got close to them the last day, they’re so good in the clutch [moments]. Every game against Kerry, Mayo, every tight All-Ireland or All-Ireland semi-final they have been in that any team have asked serious questions, Dublin have always had the answers.
“To me, until they run out of answers, they’re still the best team in the country.”
Watch the full discussion on Inside The Game at 11pm Wednesday on Sky Sports Arena.
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