By Frank Craig
Eoghan Ban Gallagher doesn’t believe the departure of Jim Gavin has weakened Dublin.
The Donegal flier says sides with All-Ireland aspirations can’t rely on the hope that the current five-in-a-row champions might have lost some steam due to their recent managerial shake up.
He says the only way the Leinster kingpins will be toppled is if someone else can raise their game above that of the history makers from the capital.
New Dubs boss Dessie Farrell has begun life in the hotseat with one win and two draws from three NFL outings to date. Their form hasn’t been too convincing but they still sit top of the pile, albeit on score difference.
The league is a barometer of sorts for most others but Gallagher says the true measure of Dublin will only be revealed when the Super 8s roll around.
“Dublin have been the benchmark for the past five years,” said Gallagher. “We like to think we’re in the chasing park and the chasing pack need to close the gap.
“Jim Gavin left a good core group of players that will continue to set a standard and the new faces coming onto their panel will only follow that.
“It was probably a pretty seamless handover in that sense. But no, you can’t sit around hoping they’ll regress. It is up to everyone else to step up. The league for them, they’ve been trying out a good few players.
“And closer towards the end of that you’ll see more and more familiar faces come back into the reckoning.”
For the Killybegs man and his Tir Chonaill teammates, the current landscape is definitely much different. May 17 and an opening Ulster SFC clash with fierce rivals Tyrone is no doubt the centre of their overall focus.
Between then and now though, they are determined to consolidate their place in Division 1. Declan Bonner’s side should be sitting top of the table but squandered points against both Mayo (draw) and Galway (loss) means they’re under more pressure than they should be ahead of Saturday night’s trip to Jones Road.
He says the two-week break has allowed them to reflect on their late short comings in both those aforementioned encounters.
“We know we left points behind us,” he added. “We’re very disappointed to only have three. We were in great positions in both the Mayo and Galway games. But the reality is we didn’t close those games out. Listen, that’s the learning from Division 1 and that’s why, like Declan has said, our interests are better served plying in it regularly, staying there and not yoyoing. Consistency in Division 1, you definitely can take some of that momentum into championship.
“We’d have got away with those drop offs last year but in Division 1 you have to go right until the very end or there is always that chance you’ll be pegged back. In championship, against the good sides, the exact same thing can happen. It has happened.
“It’s up to us now to put it right. There are positives there but we really have to be more ruthless and start closing out games. We’ve talked about it and we have to go out now and apply it. That’s the bottom line.”
That introspection will be laid bare under lights at Croke Park at the weekend. But Gallagher says it’s the perfect challenge at the perfect time.
“There is no better venue than Croker Park and no better team than Dublin. It’s a great opportunity to make a statement and attempt to bounce back.
“Division 1 now, just like championship, is a results business. There is no point playing well for most of the game if you come out the other end with nothing to show for it. Points have to go on the board.”
A nasty ankle break prior to Donegal’s Super 8’s clash with Kerry last year ended Gallagher’s season instantly. And there were real concerns the injury would sideline the player for the majority of this year’s NFL campaign.
No one expected him to be ready for Donegal’s opener against Mayo. But his performances to date suggests he is close to being back to his best in 2020.
“It’s great to be back in that group environment,” he explained. “I was talking to Paddy McGrath about it recently. I remember he was in doing his prehab at the time before his operation.
“He was moving so much better than I was, even at that stage You just wondered what was ahead of you down the track.
“But you get the work done and you take it step by step. The medical team were so meticulous with me. You can become a little impatient. But after the Mayo game I knew their way was the right way.
“It was a joy to be back playing but funnily enough, after that game you’re sitting there and you’re right back in it – annoyed and frustrated only about the result. A corner was turned for me personally I suppose but the direction of the group and the team is suddenly once again the only priority.
“Your focus for so long is on your own recovery. And then you’re suddenly back in the mix. But yeah, I’m happy with how it’s gone so far in that regard. But we’ve ended up disappointed now twice after two of the three games and we have to try to put that right now on Saturday night.”