Thursday 29 September 2016

Tomás Ó Sé: Diarmuid Connolly's decision to go for a point from the sideline was madness

Published 19/09/2016 | 13:00

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin kicks a sideline ball in the dying minutes
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin kicks a sideline ball in the dying minutes
Dublin’s James McCarthy watches on from the Hogan Stand after being shown a black card. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Walking out of Croke Park and heading for Montrose yesterday evening, I couldn't quite get my head around the game at all.

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Everyone I spoke to had their own flashpoint or moment they wanted to talk about. And it seemed each of them were as valid as the next. It left you wondering just where you start with those 70-plus minutes.

There are large parts of that game that just defy any sort of sane analysis. Two own goals? A freak. No Dublin score from play until more than half an hour in? Unthinkable. Diarmuid Connolly to go for a score from the sideline when a little bit of keep-ball was needed? Madness. Connolly of all people.

In the midst of all this, you had Conor Lane taking charge of his first decider. I'm sure your first All-Ireland is hard enough to deal with without having greasy conditions.

And they have that bloody black card rule to interpret as well. Yesterday that rule was, as it has been for most of its existence, a lottery for players and a mystery to just about everyone else.

Now the black card isn't a Conor Lane issue. It has confounded just about everyone at one stage or another. And yesterday it muddied the waters again.

James McCarthy should never have gone on his black. Michael Darragh Macauley could have got the line long before Jim Gavin hauled him off.

And of course Cillian O'Connor shouldn't have been on the pitch to kick the equaliser. If his foul late on on Darren Daly wasn't a clear black card, then I don't know is. It was cynical and deliberate, everything a black card offence is meant to entail. And he stayed on the pitch.

There are several incidents that you can argue over.

And players get on a referee's back more in those scenarios, when there are decisions that go against one side or another. They'll gripe and moan and try to push the limits, and that only makes it harder for refs.

To my mind, the black card has made the referee's life more difficult, and that's the last thing any rule change should do.

I know you have to give new refs a chance but David Coldrick to my mind is the best in the business and I think most would agree with me. Put simply, we should have the best officials out on the biggest day.

Going back to the game, there are probably plenty of people who will say that Mayo missed their chance and that Dublin were poor - as poor as they have been under Jim Gavin in a game of any consequence and still Mayo couldn't get over the line.

Now I don't necessarily see it that way. Mayo did things to Dublin that no-one else has managed.

Going into the game Kevin McManamon was in the Footballer of the Year frame but Mayo forced him to the edge of the game and eventually off the field.

Connolly was another who was tipped to bend the game to his will but Lee Keegan made his life difficult.

Mayo's attitude in defence was brilliant. They kept the starting six Dublin forwards to just 0-2 from play. And for the first time I saw the Dublin running machine stopped. Late on, they were trying to punch holes but the legs were empty. They'd look up and there'd be nothing to hit. They lost their shape and had no options.

Mayo were running on fumes too but they had worn Dublin down. I hadn't seen that done before and it took a remarkable effort.

I felt Dublin were wobbling at times in the second half and Mayo just couldn't push them over the edge.

Only for Brian Fenton, I think Dublin would have been beaten. When a lot of people around him were treading water, he was punching holes, making tackles or kicking an important score. He might have had two goals in the first half. He was just everywhere. Donie Vaughan impressed me too.

As poor as Dublin were by their own standards, they found themselves three points up at the end of normal time. You'd have put the house on them closing it out from there. But Mayo came back to level it and we get another day out.

The replay? Well on the evidence of yesterday anything is possible. How both sides handle the next two weeks will be vital.

Dublin have obvious room for improvement. They could realistically ask for more from everyone except Fenton. Across the board, they were a little off. It's hard to say why that was but they have time to get it right. And I think they will.

But Mayo can improve too. David Clarke made a couple of great saves but a couple of kick-outs went wrong late on. They'll almost certainly get more out of Aidan O'Shea too. 

But overall I can see them gaining confidence from this. Defensively they were superb. Leaving out the two freak goals, they conceded just nine points in almost 80 minutes' action against the best attack in the game.

They should be bouncing into the replay. They have another go at it but Dublin will be a different proposition. They'll be stung by that performance. It's anyone's game.

Irish Independent

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