Thursday 8 December 2016

Eugene McGee: Forget packed defences, Dublin have introduced the packed attack!

Published 27/04/2015 | 02:30

The most important selection decision was placing Cian O’Sullivan – here pictured battling against Cork’s John O’Rourke – at centre-half back
The most important selection decision was placing Cian O’Sullivan – here pictured battling against Cork’s John O’Rourke – at centre-half back

We have heard a great deal about packed defences in Gaelic football since Donegal invented that particular style of football, but yesterday in Croke Park we saw the first example of the packed attack. It came not surprisingly from Dublin and epitomised the long held Gaelic football motto that 'defence is the best form of attack'.

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On the approximately 16 times Dublin were on the attack with some extra numbers during the first half of this league final against Cork, the forwards stayed in the Cork half of the field.

Whenever Cork, either from kickouts or from ordinary defensive play, looked up they found themselves surrounded by blue jerseys and were totally unable to get proper clearance in or set an attack in motion.

It was a classic example of the spider's web syndrome as the Cork backs were repeatedly trapped by a mass of Dublin players.

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the cup following his side's victory. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Final, Dublin v Cork. Croke Park, Dublin
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the cup following his side's victory. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Final, Dublin v Cork. Croke Park, Dublin

As a result, the pressure on the Cork defence was relentless and it was little wonder that this game was over by half-time with Dublin scoring 1-9 to Cork's miserly 0-5.

All Cork's scores had come from Colm O'Neill frees and one placed ball from Brian Hurley and indeed it was over 50 minutes before Cork scored their first point from play.

As Dublin's dominance grew they needed to rely less and less on their packed attack because they were merely toying with their opponents.

This is the second year that Dublin have humiliated Cork in the league final and when you consider Kerry's destruction of the Rebels in last year's Munster final, one wonders where exactly this Cork side are headed, if anywhere.

No doubt Cork manager Brian Cuthbert will receive plenty of criticism, but before that maybe they should instead take a closer look at the attitudes and behaviour of many of the Cork players.

We all know, from recent years, that Cork have many very talented footballers because they have proven so in the past. However, it is the players who must accept most of the blame for yesterday's debacle.

The most important selection decision was placing Cian O’Sullivan – here pictured battling against Cork’s John O’Rourke – at centre-half back
The most important selection decision was placing Cian O’Sullivan – here pictured battling against Cork’s John O’Rourke – at centre-half back

They had appeared to be the best team from the seven Division 1 group matches and ran up very high scores against the leading counties.

So why were they such flops yesterday, both as individuals and as a team?

Players whom many people were raving about looked like under-14s adrift in Croke Park.

They showed little or no interest in taking on the Dubs full blast and at least making a game out of it.

These players have a lot of explaining to do, because the manager was not playing in this match.

As for Dublin, the most notable thing was that they fielded their strongest team of the year with only Michael Darragh Macauley being absent.

The most important selection decision was placing Cian O'Sullivan at centre halfback, a position that has caused problems for them in Ger Brennan's absence.

O'Sullivan controlled that area with confidence yesterday, which was just as well because while Dublin's backs are flashy but genuine, they have been knocked out of their stride sometimes too.

It was noticeable that when fullback Rory O'Carroll went off injured in the 26th minute, there was slight panic in front of goals despite the weakness of the Cork attack and two easy frees were conceded in quick succession that brought points.

Undoubtedly the talk now will be about the superior quality of this Dublin team and the usual euphoria will return.

With little or not opposition in Leinster, this talk will continue for quite a while and if you want the definition of a GAA poisoned chalice just consider the first round game in Tullamore in a few weeks between Offaly and Longford.

The prize for victory?

Annihilation in the next round when they face Dublin in, of course where else, Croke Park. It's hard to believe that when the Leinster Council met last October not one delegate backed a proposal to have Dublin play even one game outside the capital even though the Dubs were certain to win anywhere.

Money still rules in the big GAA decisions, but some of these counties are spineless too.

Read more:  Dublin's treble heaven as Cork implode again

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