Shane Stapleton and football coach Steven Poacher preview the All-Ireland SFC semi-final clash of Dublin v Cavan.
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Steven Poacher wants to see Cavan suffocate their All-Ireland SFC semi-final clash with Dublin.
The five-in-a-row champions go into the game as unbackable favourites after waltzing through Leinster.
The Breffni County have been hugely impressive in their run to this stage, coming all the way from the Ulster preliminary round to win the title.
They accounted for Division 1 sides Monaghan and Donegal along the way, and also took care of Antrim and Down.
Poacher was part of the Carlow management team which pushed Dublin in the 2017 Leinster championship, eventually losing 0-17 to 0-9 but only fading in the final 20-plus minutes once Brendan Murphy had been sent off.
“The thing about playing Dublin, and it’s mad because I remember thinking about it when we were playing them, there’s part of you thinking we could be lambs to the slaughter but maybe we could get at them,” he says with a chuckle.
“The realistic side of you says ‘we need to be careful here, and careful early’. I think teams have got to stop being afraid of the narrative out there that you have to have a go.
“Forget about ‘you have to have a go’. See the first 15 minutes, I want to see Cavan booed off the pitch.
“I would love to see them coming in with a seriously negative attritional style where they suffocate the game, nothing happens and they stay in the game.
“Be really competitive, start a few scuffles, get in Dublin’s face, and tackle with the same ferocity as against Donegal.
“When you have the ball, manage it, don’t worry about going down their throats and attacking, stay in the game as long as you can.
“If we try to make a case for Cavan as pundits, people will laugh at us,” the Down minor coach adds. “People will say ‘what are you talking about?’.
“Of course they can be beaten, they have to be beaten at some stage. This is not going to go on forever.
“In 2016, it took a replay and Mayo played them off the park, and scored two own goals — freakish stuff. A last-minute free in 2017.
“Tyrone in 2018 were 0-5 to 0-1 up and didn’t manage the game.
“If you look at the finals one the last couple of years, even Kerry last year, teams have gotten close; I think it just takes that one defeat and you might get that changing of the guard.”
Poacher agrees with a lot of what was written by former Westmeath footballer John Connellan about the gap to Dublin, but warns against a defeatist attitude.
“The narrative I’ve said to you about Leinster being dead, it’s dead, it’s dead; if you keep saying it, people will believe it.
“Look at the amount of Kildare players that retired (Keith Cribbin, Tommy Moolick, Peter Kelly) this week, I’d say mentally they are just a beaten bunch, just ‘what’s the point?’ .
“You’re reading something over and over again, eventually it will stick with you.
“I just think Dublin are so far ahead physically, but mentally as well. Leinster is now more or less a bit of tapering to get up to speed for the last four.
“This year is skewed because you have Tipp coming out of Munster and Cavan coming out of Ulster, who are traditionally not the strong powers in the past couple of years.
“So they’re probably thinking to themselves, you know… is there a possibility they could win an All-Ireland without playing a Division 1 team (Mayo and Meath both got relegated to Division 2)?”
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