Thursday 23 March 2017

Late loss of structure will generate doubts for Dublin

Cork showed admirable composure last week -- unlike their big city rivals, writes Páidí ó Sé

Paidi O Se

F ootball has well and truly evolved. But there are a couple of hardcore elements that no team can do without and a lot of managers seem to be letting these vital fundamentals slide in favour of a more advanced game.

I've always felt that the function of a defender is to defend. He needs to take up his opposite number, mark him and keep him scoreless. The function of the forward is to get a score or to make a score. To me, at its essence, football is as simple as that.

Towards the end of last Sunday's Division 1 final, when Cork launched a counter-attack, the Dublin players were completely out of sync.

They didn't seem to know who they were marking and there was no one taking responsibility for his man. Dublin were just running around without structure, taking it in turns to chase down the man with the ball. Ultimately, it was badly-thought-out, shabby defending.

Managers also need to realise that a team is going nowhere without a consistent place kicker, Michael John Tierney of Laois kicked ten points from the spot against Donegal in the final round of the league and then in Croke Park last week he only converted one. Mossy Quinn is another example of a player who needs to be hitting the mark when given the responsibility. There is no excuse for what had happened last Sunday -- that late free was close in.

I remember in 2000, we had a very big lead against Cork but they took us by surprise and started to come back at us. We got a free about 46 or 47 yards out, right in the middle of the field. It was in a very difficult spot for any place kicker; it wasn't to the left or to the right but it didn't matter because Dara ó Cinnéide stepped up to the plate and kicked it over the bar. He steadied the ship and we maintained our lead to the end.

I don't understand why Dublin didn't call on Stephen Cluxton to take the crucial kicks last week. There is so much talk about his '45s and his accurate kick-outs, was he not the perfect man for the job?

Dublin's forwards weren't overly impressive in general. With the exception of the Brogans and Diarmuid Connolly, they don't seem to have an abundance of natural forwards. Those three are the only ones who can kick freely when they have the ball.

Last Sunday's win will prove very beneficial for Cork. The manner in which they kept their composure was impressive. They were eight points down yet they didn't panic, they didn't even try for goals, just kept picking off the scores.

I thought that their kicking was solid, especially by Donncha O'Connor and Ciarán Sheehan. Another player who did well was Paddy Kelly. He showed great work rate, foraging back into his own half-back line and complementing the forwards up front but he hasn't forgotten how to kick a point as well. He reminds me of a great Kerry half-forward from the '70s Eamon O'Donoghue.

Losing won't help Dublin at all. There is an element of doubt now in everybody's heads, players and management. It will take very strong resilience and guidance to steady the ship again and whether they can do that or not, I'm not sure.

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