Saturday 27 December 2014

Dubs are the Germans of Gaelic football

Published 18/07/2014 | 02:30

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton parades the Sam Maguire Cup in Merrion Square last September
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton parades the Sam Maguire Cup in Merrion Square last September

Welcome to the future. They're young, hungry and demand our attention. They boast a 'keeper who doesn't want to be kept in his box. And a midfield machine. Plus super subs to make you salivate. Same with their style – there's a copycat clamour. Admit it, you like them. So are Dublin the Germans of Gaelic football?

They're going to dominate, they tell us – 32 teams in the World Cup, it's Germany who have Das Ding locked up. This golden generation also have the future locked up – or so they tell us.

Not quite the full 32-county complement (no Kilkenny), it was Dublin who left with the football bling last summer. Golden generation. Future locked up. Or so they tell us. Are the Dubs a prototype of the German operation? Have they also cracked the code on what you need to not just win, but become a superpower for years to come?

Let's start with the men who wear No 1. Both are revolutionists. Manuel Neuer concocted his own version of sweeper-keeper. Stephen Cluxton changed the way we view goalkeepers in Gaelic football. He more than just moonlights as a free-taker. Goalies taking frees is nothing new. But he's perfecting it.

Cluxton uses his kick-outs as a point of attack. Not as a roll of the dice. He uses an old Peter Schmeichel technique to make him better – he trains with a ball heavier than the regular match ball. It's helped to improve his kicking accuracy.

For Bastian Schweinsteiger, read Michael Darragh Macauley. Mario Gomez once described Schweinsteiger as "our midfield motor – he dictates the tempo of the game". You wouldn't catch Macauley wearing boots with the words 'The Chosen One' sewn into them like Schweinsteiger had in the World Cup final. But Macaculey is the man Dubs boss Jim Gavin has chosen to knit his team's play together – he's the archetypal link player.

German car manufacturers would do well to bottle the engine MDMA has. Remember what he did after helping Dublin win the National Football League in April? He ran the 10k Samsung Night Run in Dublin the same evening. A bit longer than your average warm-down.

Germany's World Cup victory is seen as the culmination of years of investment in talented youth. It is exactly what Jim Gavin has done – he's proficient in the simple art of joined-up thinking. He managed the U-21 team to three Leinster and two All-Ireland titles. The likes of Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny, Johnny Cooper and Dean Rock all came off the conveyor belt Gavin helped build.

And now he's benefiting from that work at senior level. Senan Connell, who played with Gavin for five seasons, said: "It's no wonder the players he worked with have turned into winners. Jim was always a leader, an innovator and a winner."

Gavin has formatted a blueprint for Dublin on team ethic – it is all about the collective. Like soccer, Gavin would prefer players to have an assigned jersey number or jerseys with their names on it for the season.

"We don't place any emphasis on the number on a player's back. It's what he can do for the team, whether that's finishing a game or starting a game," Gavin has stated.

Germany boasted incredible depth in their squad. Dublin have their own version of Mario Goetze on the bench. Of the 2-25 Dublin scored in their semi-final win over Wexford, subs contributed 1-9. It was a total of 0-9 for the replacements in their 2-21 quarter-final win over Laois. Gavin's way of working subs has seen them blend seamlessly into the action.

Germany showed great team spirit during the World Cup, especially in the 7-1 win over Brazil. Players were eager for others to take the glory and score. No ego.

Connell says its the same with Dublin. "There's a ring of steel around this Dublin team – nothing is filtering out. You never hear anything bad. Everyone seems happy, which is down to Jim being such a good communicator."

Another communicator, Gary Lineker, signed off BBC's coverage with "tiki-taka ta-ra!" after Spain were knocked out of the World Cup. But it wasn't ta-ra to tiki-taka; Germany had their own variation of it.

POSSESSION

Dublin's style is also based on keeping the ball and moving it at speed. "Dublin is all about possession. Even kick-outs are referred to as 'possession restarts'," Connell added.

Miroslav Klose described his team's World Cup victory as a "super blend" of aesthetics and efficiency. Sound familiar? It maybe high-risk at times in defence, but Gavin's belief system is about one route. It's attacking football. It's heads-up football. It's football just the way we like it.

So, is the future blue? Who knows. Whatever happens this summer, Gavin will certainly engineer an environment for the players to go as close as they can to winning their own Das Ding.

Rebelettes' Pairc snub shows need for change

We were just settling in to watch the Munster hurling final when a stat popped up on Twitter. The Cork women's football team have never played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Imagine. Now we can understand logistics, timings etc, but Cork captain Briege Corkery told me the following day she would have loved the chance to have played there.

Five years ago, the women's team were disappointed when the county board decided not to reschedule the county men's football final, even though it clashed with Cork's All-Ireland women's football final at Croker. The women were only going for the five-in-a-row.

They're different organisations but is there any chance in the future that women's games could be played as part of a double/triple-header with the men's and minors? Imagine what it would do for the women's game?

Endless replays mean we miss out on vital restart action

Bugbear territory. Why do TV producers insist on showing a replay of nearly every point or wide?

It means the viewer watching at home doesn't see the entire puck-out or kick-out (possession restarts if you're a Dub) live on TV. Yes, there are points/goals that you want to see again and again from all angles and in slow-mo.

But restarts are becoming an increasingly important and intriguing part of Gaelic games. So can there be a greater emphasis on the live shots?

And maybe shots of how the players are setting up outfield for the kick-out?

There is an overload at times of stat-attack. But we're missing out on seeing a most basic and vital part of any team's game plan when we're not shown the entirety of a team's first point of attack/defence.

Irish Independent

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