Dubs' heavyweight attack makes them big contenders
Published 29/06/2009 | 00:00
Keeping a sense of balance about Dublin football teams has been a major challenge for their fans in recent years, for while they naturally love to go into ecstasies over some of the great performances of the past five seasons in Leinster, they are wary because they have been let down so often.
So is 2009 any different or is the outstanding football displayed by the blues yesterday going to be the norm from now on into the All-Ireland quarter-final and beyond?
If it is, then the destination of the Sam Maguire may not rest between Tyrone, Cork or Kerry after all.
But only time will tell and even the most ardent of Dublin fans will have to agree that the opposition offered by Westmeath was pathetic at this level of the game.
If we just deal with yesterday's game as a contest then we have to say that the performance of Dublin was as near to perfection as we are ever likely to see.
They were yards faster to every ball, they used the long ball most effectively -- especially when directed by means of cross-field passes -- and their finishing was the best we have seen from Dublin since the heydays of the 70s.
The attitude of the players was exemplary with regard to application and personal discipline all through the game, a not insignificant factor by comparison with the behaviour of a few Dublin players in recent years with regards to verbal sledging of opponents.
So as an extended training session, which is what this game really was for Dublin, this was an excellent exercise, but Pat Gilroy and Mickey Whelan will know better than anybody that this was not a real match as we know it.
The opposition was unbelievably poor once Westmeath were hit with several thunderbolts in the opening 10 minutes, by which time Dublin had scored eight points, seven from play.
Individual Westmeath players simply collapsed and all their key players of recent years went from bad to worse.
Nobody epitomised that more than their normally superb goalkeeper and present All Star Gary Connaughton, who was left ruthlessly exposed by the total inability of the backline in front of him to cope with the fluidity and sharpness of the Dublin attack.
One of the key factors in the Dublin success was the decision of the selectors this year to abandon the recent notion of a rotating forward line.
This year top players stay in their selected positions most of the time and it has paid handsome results. No longer can a forward hide from a less than inspiring performance by moving to another position and aiming to avail of a lesser defender. Nowadays they must each fight their own corner, as Jason Sherlock did so successfully yesterday.
Of course, there were still some flaws in the Dublin display, with the performance of the full-back line as a unit still a concern for those Dublin fans who look ahead to confronting the best forwards in the country. Diarmuid Connolly had a fine game but he failed with a couple of 45s, as did Ross McConnell.
After 50 minutes, I had noted that Dublin, despite all their superiority from play, had only managed a single goal, but with three more added in the last quarter, we can hardly use a goal-famine as a black mark against Dublin. But, they are unlikely to get as many goals handed to them on a plate in future games.
The only consoling thing for mainly depressed Leinster GAA followers is that the final between Dublin and Kildare really does look like being a genuine contest, in keeping with so many great Leinster finals over the years.
The 'Armagh-isation' of Kildare's football team under Kieran McGeeney is increasing at a demonic rate, as was shown when Kildare rattled off nine unanswered points in the second quarter of their game against Laois in Tullamore on Saturday night and finished the game as a contest by half-time.
Kildare went over the Laois players like an out-of-control steamroller running down a steep incline.
This sort of behaviour from players wearing white jerseys is a massive culture shock for those of us in Leinster who have watched Kildare over many years.
Against Offaly, Wexford and Laois -- all three of which used to be well able to dish out punishment -- they simply smashed the opposition to pieces with a style of play based on legitimate physical power and a fanatical work-rate. There must be former great Kildare players turning in their graves!
But the biggest change with this Kildare team is their ability to actually convert possession into scores, often scores of outstanding quality.
Now Dublin will have to confront these weapons of mass destruction and it certainly raises an intriguing prospect as we await this Leinster final -- and best of luck to the referee too!
What this game exemplified was the stupidity of having all counties taking part in the premier All-Ireland competition.
Half a dozen senior championship games this year were effectively over by half-time, so overwhelming was the supremacy of their opponents.
The fans will simply not keep paying good money to watch such a likelihood and yesterday's attendance at Croke Park showed that.