Dublin manager Jim Gavin rates Aidan O’Shea as the best player in the country ahead of the All-Ireland SFC semi-final in Croke Park on Sunday, but remains confident his defence can cope with the Mayo talisman.
A move to full-forward for O’Shea has proved an inspired decision by the Mayo management team with the Breaffy man notching a hat-trick against Sligo in the Connacht final and another eye-catching goal against Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Dublin conceded 2-15 when they progressed past Fermanagh. The Dubs defence is somewhat under the microscope going into Sunday’s game after an alarmingly slack last quarter against the Ernesiders and with an in-form O'Shea ready to take advantage of any similar display, Gavin is clearly seeking an improvement.
However, the Dubs boss has faith in his backline to cope with the Mayo attackers.
Gavin told RTÉ Sport: “All the talk at the moment is about Aidan O’Shea and he is probably the best player in Ireland. Rightly so, he has had some big performances behind him, in particular in the game against Sligo in the Connacht final.
“That was an outstanding performance. He had a big, big part to play against Donegal in how Mayo won that game. But he is also surrounded by some fantastic forwards – the O’Connor brothers, Cillian and DIarmuid.
"Jason Doherty is having a fantastic season, Kevin McLoughlin is producing his normal excellent performances every game and you throw in Lee Keegan in attack and the rest of the other backs that can attack as well.
“There is a solid midfield partnership in Tom Parsons, Seamie O’Shea and Barry Moran. It is a team we obviously know very well and we understand the intensity will bring to this game.
“We have always had great confidence in our full-back line and any of our defenders. Rory O'Carroll is going through a great bit of form and it is one of the key battles. But there are many other battles out in the field, in half-forward line, half-back line, midfield, full-forward line. It is one of the key battles, but there are many other battles to be won to win the game.
“I think we need to win the majority of the individual battles out on the field of play. We’re not going to win them all, but if we can win the majority and get a good team performance and a consistent performance, we’ll put ourselves in a strong position to win the game.”
“It’s part of the Dublin gig really. There is always an expectation on the team to win.”
Gavin said that Fermanagh offered a test that was greatly appreciated after a comfortable passage through Leinster.
He is adamant they will retain their attacking game rather than turn into a more a defensive unit and that there will be no overemphasis on particular facet of the game.
Gavin said of the quarter-final win: “You would be concerned with the overall performance, with the last quarter. We’ve taken a lot from that game and it was great to get that challenge going into a semi-final. We needed to be tested and I think Fermanagh really brought their ‘A’ game and really put it up to us.
“It is one aspect of our game, team defence, but so is team offence. You really need to the balance between it. We have a particular core philosophy in Dublin with the way we want to play our game and we’re not going to stray too far from that. Mayo pose a lot of challenges.
“Our rhythm going into this game is the same for any game that we have played and we have prepared accordingly for this big, big Mayo challenge.”
Dublin are favourites to progress to a decider with old rivals Kerry on 20 September – it is a tag the side know all too well and does not faze the manager.
“It’s part of the Dublin gig really," said Gavin. "There is always an expectation on the team to win. But we understand that there are no guarantees in sport and most sportsmen will lose more than they win.
“We are having great fun this season. We enjoyed the challenge of the teams we have played and we certainly will enjoy that challenge that Mayo will bring.”