Monday 20 October 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Book your ticket for great clash of styles

Clash with Donegal is the one the country wants to see

Published 10/08/2014 | 13:00

Dublin's Paddy Andrews, left, and Bernard Brogan smile as they leave the pitch after their quarter-final match against Monaghan.  Every GAA supporter will now hope Donegal can make the semi-final a true contest. Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Paddy Andrews, left, and Bernard Brogan smile as they leave the pitch after their quarter-final match against Monaghan. Every GAA supporter will now hope Donegal can make the semi-final a true contest. Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Monaghan decided that the massed ranks of defence was the way to stop Dublin and it worked for a while. They did not even put any pressure on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts but allowing Dublin so much free possession was only going to end up one way.

It took a while for the dam to burst but when Diarmuid Connolly struck for goal the inevitable onslaught took place. It was Dublin's first score from play but another followed quickly and in the same pattern. A James McCarthy burst and a hand off to Bernard Brogan, the umpire was going for the flag when Brogan got the ball.

By half-time the game was over and this was before Dublin had sent for the auxiliary corps on the bench. It must be great in a way to be a Dublin sub, normally the opposition have been stuffed before you arrive and it is just a matter of mopping up. Imagine backs having played hard for 50 minutes are then faced with Costello, Rock, Daly, Andrews, Mannion and whatever others are lucky enough to be called on. It is an Aladdin's cave of riches.

Yet Dublin have the players to make the hard yards and their mobility seems impossible to counteract. The first problem Monaghan had was to get their hands on the ball and they could not break through, as Dublin seemed to have a surplus of backs and, at the same time, plenty of numbers up front.

The principal difference between Dublin and everyone other team is the quality of their foot passing, it eventually pulls any defence asunder. On top of that their quick hands open holes when they seem completely closed off. When Monaghan pushed up on Cluxton's kickout in the second half he still found a man every time, this is now the puzzle for Jim McGuinness. One that might not have an answer, as Dublin have brilliant footballers with a great attitude to team work and unselfish graft.

This championship is being made completely uncompetitive such is Dublin's dominance in every game. Every GAA supporter will hope that Donegal will make the semi-final a true contest as football has returned to the 70s when Kerry beat everyone off the pitch. At that time the crowds stopped coming as nobody wants to see such one sided contests. History has a habit of repeating itself.

Maybe teams playing the Dubs should start praying for a hurricane, a flood or some other divine intervention as it appears nothing else can stop this machine.

The fear at the start of Donegal's clash with Armagh game beforehand was that it would resemble history 100 years on. In the first Armagh attack there was not one Donegal player in their attacking half of the field, but the trench warfare of the western front was not as bad as expected. Maybe there is a certain immunity building as handpassing still dominated.

Armagh were much the better team early on and kept the play wide with accurate kicking and were patient in possession. Aaron Kernan and Stefan Campbell were effective link men but shots had to be taken quickly and most did not find their target.

Donegal were handicapped badly by the continued poor form of Colm McFadden, who was a big cog in their All-Ireland win. In the first half his confidence drained and his shots were hurried and inaccurate.

In fact Donegal had only one point from play and that was from full-back, Neil McGee. A brilliant Odhran McNiallais goal kept Donegal in the game when Armagh dominated.

There was a bit of physical sorting out early on with flare ups in about three places at the same time. The only casualty was the Donegal doctor who was on a peacekeeping mission, he was dumped to the ground for his efforts. The only yellow card went to Armagh's Aaron Findon, getting stuck into a doctor is obviously a bigger crime than striking a player!

Donegal controlled the third quarter in their usual way with Michael Murphy the dominant personality. His growing influence in terms of scores and use of possession helped Donegal into a winning position and a Donegal team who are three points up are normally home and hosed. Yet when Murphy missed a kickable free with less than 15 to go the momentum shifted.

The Kernans, who are well used to kicking points under pressure for Crossmaglen, did the same for Armagh and when Stefan Campbell scrambled home a well constructed goal Armagh had their chance for glory. However Murphy and McBrearty had the last scores and overall Donegal were the better team.

The match itself was one of fierce intensity, great bravery and flat out effort and the finish was exciting. Yet as a spectacle most of these handpassing games leave me cold. Donegal had a close shave but many people now have the semi-final they want. There will be an absolute contrast in styles: free-flowing Dublin and rigid Donegal. Book your ticket, it will be a classic even if there is not much football involved.

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