Goal-shy Dubs to keep workers busy in the rain forests
Published 24/06/2007 | 00:00
BY 6.0 last Sunday, word of Dublin's victory filtered through to all parts of the globe. In some cases it meant an order for the natives to get back into the jungle and start cutting down more trees as quickly as possible, such was the demand for paper to continue the coverage of this odyssey.
Maybe a similar order went out on the factory floor in St James's Gate and in Milwaukee and other parts of the world, such will be the demand this afternoon for alcohol with another late throw-in. The publicans are delighted again, maybe less so the casualty units of some hospitals who get the after affects of the binges, and there is no sign of a latter day Matt Talbot coming to the rescue.
Overall, Dublin were a good bit better than Meath last Sunday and on the ratio of possession and scoring chances should not have had to endure another jittery period near the end. The Dubs still lack the ruthless ability to despatch a team when they are clearly in control.
If they were more clinical they would have had a substantial lead by half-time. Alan Brogan at that stage could have had a goal and several points, he did everything right but score and it is an ongoing problem with him and the rest of the forward line. They all work hard off the ball, make great runs, win hard ball, often take wrong options and miss far too much.
Some of their supporters will comfort themselves with the idea that it will eventually all come together and some day the forwards will wreak havoc; others won't hold their breath on that one. If Dublin continue to win it will be due more to perspiration than inspiration. The missing of goals, in particular, leaves them vulnerable.
Over the course of these two games they have squandered four or five gilt-edged goal opportunities and the only one they got was in the dodgy bracket. Yet an addition of one or two goals to the points tally they ran up last week would leave them with a real shout of beating everyone.
What has emerged from last Sunday is a new great blond hope. Dublin needed a new scoring forward and maybe Mark Vaughan is what they need to take the pressure off Brogan and Conal Keaney. He has the ability and he is old enough and long enough on the panel to avoid being a one-day wonder. In the past he has not impressed in terms of maturity, but young people learn from mistakes and Vaughan can score from play, strikes very nicely from frees and could stick the odd one in the net too.
However, I don't think he will get as easy a ride today - Offaly will have his card well marked. Meath's corner-back Eoghan Harrington is more used (and suited) to playing in the half-backs rather than a tight, negative man-marking job. Other teams are now alerted to Vaughan's threat and he will get much closer attention so his reaction to someone breathing in his ear, and possibly biting it occasionally too, may determine both his and Dublin's year.
This was one of Meath's difficulties last Sunday: the lack of specialist man-markers. All the top teams have one or two, Tom O'Sullivan or Marc Ó Sé in Kerry, Francie Bellew in Armagh, while they grow on trees in Tyrone. These players don't mind not getting a kick so long as their men do nothing. It takes a while to get a back to this stage and it takes patient management too.
The Meath mentors saw both sides of life over the two games. Every move worked in the drawn game; this time round it was the opposite. Obviously caught on the horns of a dilemma with Cian Ward, they opted to play him from the start but that backfired. Yet it would be very hard to explain to any young player why he should not start after making such an impact in the drawn match.
For Meath, going the toll road is no disaster so long as they don't draw someone like Armagh tonight. These are the best players available and it is clear that a good spirit exists, alterations are needed, but nothing too radical. The only problem in thinking about the future is that two of the best players last week are the oldest, Darren Fay and Graham Geraghty. That alone tempers expectations about the next couple of years.
The disappointment lay in the fact that when Meath fought hard to get back into the game during the normal Dublin second half fade-out, reducing the lead to just one point with about seven minutes to go, they then had the Dubs in the noose but failed to pull the trap door.
A lot of Dublin players played better last week. Shane Ryan added a bit of mobility to midfield and it was in the area of breaking ball that they really smothered Meath. This does not happen by chance, it takes bravery and strength and it was noticeable that the conditioning work over the last few years carried out by Dublin paid off in these tussles.
If Offaly let in three today they will be in the hat for the Tommy Murphy Cup tonight
Ciarán Whelan, Bryan Cullen, Ross McConnell and Barry Cahill also improved from the drawn game, but none of the Dublin backs were able to mark Stephen Bray, who was the best player on either team over the two matches.
Although it is not ideal by any means, the Dubs must go back to the well today. A week is much too short to recover physically and mentally and it may take the first half to get up to speed. And it won't be that Dublin will take Offaly for granted. Far from it. Last year in the Leinster final Dublin struggled to shake off Offaly and the sending off of Alan McNamee had a major bearing on the game.
If Dublin have not had enough time to recover and patch up the scars of battle, Offaly are in the opposite position. Beating Carlow in the first game was no help, it rained scores in that match, especially goals, Carlow getting three. If Offaly let in three today they will be in the hat for the Tommy Murphy Cup tonight.
Dublin have to contend with Niall McNamee, who will take as much marking as Vaughan, Brogan or Keaney, while Karol Slattery will play as a half-back but raid forward at every opportunity. This is no easy game for Dublin, but it is a major step up for Offaly who are a Division 4 league team. The Dubs should win and keep the workers busy in the rain forests.