DUBLIN v KILDARE: GAVIN CUMMISKEY talks to Dublin corner back Michael Fitzsimons about the challenge Kildare pose

THE PSYCHOLOGY of corner back play has little to do with the glamorous part of Gaelic football. The position requires a specialist with a particularly defensive mindset – even if it means curtailing much of the natural talent they must surely possess.

Their job is to deny space in order to dominate. They must be utterly selfless and care little for actually holding a football in their hands.

“I can go a couple of games without kicking the ball but, no, I don’t mind,” said Dublin man-marker Michael Fitzsimons who will be joined by debutant Paul Conlon in Dublin’s last line of defence tomorrow.

“It’s just great to be part of the team. I enjoy the competitive aspect of the challenge of keeping my man quiet. It’s not much fun if you’re not getting there ahead of him but if you can break a ball and see it go up the field and get a score it’s very satisfying to know you played a part in that.”

A corner back needs a deep well of mental fortitude. Basically, the ability to instantly recover when left flapping by a Gooch, a Stephen O’Neill, a Stevie McDonnell or a Daniel Goulding.

And being a Dublin corner back brings its own particular pressure. A single lapse in concentration ensures every pair of eyes bear down upon them from that concrete Hill. And the green turf will refuse to swallow them whole.

“Yeah, it’s huge,” Fitzsimons explains. “If you get worked over by your man, like, my man against Cork got two points because of two balls I just didn’t attack. It could have killed me but I got my head around it, stopped thinking about it. Sometimes if your man gets a point or a goal early on, and your main goal being to keep him quiet, it can bring you down.

“But you must switch off and play every ball as it comes. Otherwise, if you are not focused on the next ball and worrying about the last score, you don’t have a chance of robbing him.”

Fitzsimons’ regular corner back partner Philly McMahon is missing tomorrow due to a knee injury and Conlon makes his championship debut in his place.

“There’s lots of lads that can play in the full-back line like Paul Conlon, Ross O’Carroll will hopefully be coming back in and putting huge pressure. Paul Brogan can obviously play there and Seán Murray. So there’s going to be no shortage of competition.”

The recurrence of a knee injury has also ruled out Dublin captain Paul Griffin again and a second season of frustrating sideline viewing seems likely for him.

“It’s devastating news. He knows the players inside out from playing in that full-back line before. He knows where to be and what to do. He’s not afraid to come up to anyone and tell them what to do.”

Fitzsimons is braced for a really searching test tomorrow.

“Kildare come from all angles,” “Corner backs coming up and kicking points. I presume they will have a lot of runners who are fit, strong and fast. A lot of runners from deep like John Doyle and, your man, Emmet Bolton always coming up.

“It’s not just six forwards getting scores, they come from everywhere. You must keep focused.”

“Lot’s of people don’t like it. The pressure. I see it as a challenge. I’d still always like the full-back line . . . It is great to challenge yourself against the best players. And you know if you can keep him quiet you are going to contribute to the team.”


source: Irish Times, Saturday 25th June 2011