Friday 28 October 2016

Defenceless Dubs don't look like Sam hopefuls

Published 14/04/2008 | 00:00

Dave Billings and Paul Caffrey were left with plenty to ponder after yesterday's defeat in Crossmaglen
Dave Billings and Paul Caffrey were left with plenty to ponder after yesterday's defeat in Crossmaglen

Dublin fans can sing it - they have major problems in their backline that could easily scuttle the dearly held and carefully planned campaign to capture Sam Maguire in 2008.

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I have no doubt there will be many Dublin excuses for this debacle in Crossmaglen but real fans know the truth. And that is that, based on the make-up of the Dublin backline against Armagh, there are several leading teams, including Armagh, who would be perfectly capable of upsetting Dublin in the forthcoming championship.

This was a championship game of football before a huge crowd and the fervour and cut-throat approach associated with Armagh over the past decade stood out a mile. In particular when it came to physical battles at close range, it was invariably Armagh players who did best. But the most amazing statistic and the one that will cause many sleepless nights along Liffeyside was the Armagh tally of 3-13.

This was supposed to be an Armagh forward line heading for the knacker's yard after all. But Steve McDonnell and Ronan Clarke, in particular, absolutely destroyed the Dublin backline and but for the fact that Armagh missed at least six scoreable point chances with the wind in the first half then this would have been an even more embarrassing afternoon for Dublin.

Of course, there will be excuses such as the decision not to start Shane Ryan and Ciaran Whelan at midfield, but actually Eamon Fennell more than held his own at midfield and Armagh's Paul McGrane had only a modest game by his standards.

This game is all about the Dublin defence. They were woeful individually and as a group they were literally shoved aside in any close contests, and when it came to the sort of cuteness that you would normally associate with an All Ireland winning team then it was Armagh 5 Dublin 1.

The slick interplay between the Armagh forwards, particularly McDonnell and Clarke, was far too much for the Dublin fullback line and raised all the old fears in that department. Ross McConnell was never able to handle Clarke, while McDonnell's movement around te field was simply marvellous. I was somewhat surprised at the way Armagh's forwards played in the first half as they were abandoning their recent short-passing game and opting to shoot for points at long range with the wind. But so dominant were Armagh that they could afford the luxury of wayward shooting and still have eight points on the board at halftime, which was double the scores Dublin had.

In the second half, however, Armagh made greater use of the short passing game, which was very bad news for Dublin. An astonishing 3-5 was produced by those Armagh forwards as the Dublin backs went from bad to worse.

Once again Dublin lined out Brian Cullen at centre-forward with Ger Brennan and later Barry Cahill playing at centre halfback with no great distinction. Colie Moran, like other defenders, gave a lot of space to opposing forwards and paid the price. Some of McDonnell's points were superb and one in particular, when he combined in a tight right corner position with Clarke, was reminiscent of the best of recent Armagh years.


The Dublin forwards were less than impressive too, most notably Mark Vaughan. But for the initiative of Jason Sherlock and the hard work of Bernard Brogan, Dublin's plight would have been much worse. This is a serious setback for Dublin no matter how it is dressed up or glossed off as just another league game.

This was the game when Armagh had gone for bust. They were in decline in recent games and decided that playing one of the top teams in the country would be 'make or break' day for Armagh. There is very little doubt about which it was and any team hoping to win the Ulster championship will need to be up very early in the morning to catch this impressive set of Armagh players.

Finally time for action against hypocrites who don't respect rules

There are many reasons for the deplorable state of discipline within the ranks of the GAA but one of the main causes is the hypocrisy of so many GAA officers who themselves fail to implement the rules of the GAA. It is not just me who says that but the President himself when Nickey Brennan made a scathing attack on such officers during his address to Annual Congress yesterday in Sligo. This is part of what he said:

"Although we had a sizeable reduction in the number of disciplinary cases at national level in 2007, we unfortunately had a number of high profile issues that reflected very poorly on our association. It is a complete cop-out to lay the blame on our Rule Book for the difficulties we encountered with some cases. Our Rule Book is again being updated at this Congress and this on-going work is certainly important, but ultimately the problems we encountered with a number of high profile cases were down to a growing culture of disrespect for our rules, regulations and match officials.

"The breathtaking arrogance and lack of leadership from some officials saw cases coming before central committees and the DRA when the sanctions should have been accepted and the offence acknowledged.

"These same officials have the audacity to go back into their own counties and administer the same rules which they tried to side-step at national level. Changing the culture of individuals, although equally challenging, is far more important.

"Without a seismic culture change towards greater respect for our rules, regulations and match officials, I remain unconvinced that even a newly written Rule Book would adequately address some of the issues we encounter."

That comment says it all and verifies what I have often written and been castigated for -- a lot of GAA officers at all levels have no respect or appreciation for the rule of law and only see the rules of discipline as a means of getting culprits off scott-free. Very often when that does happen, because of the mire that is the GAA's Official Guide, these same officials boast openly about how 'successful' they have been. The same principle applies to the many team managers who embrace recipients of red cards as they are being escorted like heroes off the field of play.

There is a myth that the GAA cannot change what Mr Brennan describes as 'the growing culture of disrespect for our rules, regulations and match officials'.

The GAA has the POWER to enforce discipline at all levels, what they LACK is the courage and the will to enforce these rules. Every week, disciplinary rules are flouted left, right and centre by legislators who openly disregard the GAA's rules.

That is why discipline is a sick joke as far as most GAA people are concerned and please, Mr Brennan do not set up another committee to investigate the problem.

We have talked the GAA's disciplinary problems into oblivion and action is what is now needed. GAA officials who do not enforce discipline or connive in thwarting discipline need to be rooted out, starting at the highest levels where such a practice was obvious in the past few years even with some county chairmen.

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