Tuesday 25 October 2016

Tomás Ó Sé: Dublin and Mayo have history now and it's spilling out from every crevice

Gavin's men need to focus less on physical dominance and more on football

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in action against Dublin duo Paul Flynn and John Small
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in action against Dublin duo Paul Flynn and John Small

Watching some of the actions of the Dublin footballers last Sunday brought me back to a sunny Killarney afternoon five years ago when Limerick came to town for a Munster final.

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Not my proudest moment. I was all over the place in the first half, could have been sent off twice for what the cameras saw and even a third time for what they didn't pick up.

Stephen Kelly was the object of my ire. He'd done the 'hard man' act with us before and I got sucked into making a promise that, by God, he wasn't going to get away with it again.

Trouble was, I got sucked in too much and paid a price.

I wasn't sent off but I did get a subsequent suspension when the cameras rolled that week. Hands up, I was guilty. My game suffered.

I saw it in at least four Dublin players last Sunday. Their focus wasn't totally on breaking down Mayo in terms of football.

As a team, they became too obsessed with the idea of physically imposing themselves and it took away from their normal game. Mayo too had a couple for whom the ball wasn't always a priority.


Paul Flynn was better than he has been but wasn't completely tuned in either, seeking confrontation too often off the ball, shoving his opponent at any opportunity.

Too many of them were over-pumped which surprised me because one of the things that Jim Gavin has brought to this team is a controlled aggression.

They've been able to dominate physically with a detachment far from what we saw them engage in last Sunday.

Philly McMahon was a liability at times. You need your hard men but you don't need some of the irrational stuff that he pulled off. It's only drawing the attention of the referee for the next day and they'll come down harder.

They're not a dirty team and in Gavin's time they've been quite disciplined given the pressure that they've inevitably been put under.

They'd be far better concentrating on their own game rather than focusing on someone else's. But there's history between them now and it's spilling out between every crack and crevice.

It's the biggest single issue that Dublin will have address this week. To concede 1-8 to a marksman of Cillian O'Connor's range and quality points to a pretty serious disciplinary breakdown for a team of their status.

Let me be clear, though, there were patches where Dublin produced top-class defence. They just need to be more even-tempered about it.

After the build-up, the match itself, not the occasion, didn't really deliver. Mayo started nervously, Dublin finished nervously. In between Dublin made hay when there was structure and order to it.

But you have to admire this Mayo team for what they bring. Over the last five years they've been the toughest and most consistent team in the country. No doubt in my mind about that. They just have to believe that they are good enough to win it out. Which they are.

The difference between the first 10 minutes and the last 10 illustrated the gulf in approach.

When they weren't worried about tactics, who was in front of the full-back line or kick-out strategies they prospered with the kitchen-sink attitude. No team runs from deep like them. Check out where Colm Boyle started for the penalty. Dublin didn't try to stop them at source often enough which, I felt, was a mistake.

Mayo have to get better support structures around Aidan O'Shea. It didn't always happen for him but I admired him for going at it with the level of abuse he was getting.

They were just too cagey early on and had no link. They need to operate with three more players inside Dublin's half at all times. Take that chance.

I questioned O'Connor the last day and I still think he has more to give. But from frees, immaculate. And a penalty in the 69th minute? Balls.

One thing that baffles me is the approach to kick-outs from both sides. The obsession with trying to guarantee 100 per cent return is too great. Dublin went short, Mayo allowed them to pick it up in the corners but then met them with a wall in the middle third that Dublin couldn't always penetrate. Too often it left Dublin with too much to do.

For me, Denis Bastick must start the next day. Stick a few kick-outs above him, ask him to break them at worst and have blue shirts beneath fighting furiously. Michael Darragh MacAuley should partner him. Gavin should tell them, 'You're the senior men, this is on you'.

Dublin need more from their big men. They're a team with the experience of two All-Irelands. They don't need Brogan, Flynn and Cluxton to be just okay. They need them to be much more in these games. Even Ciarán Kilkenny, superb in the first half, was anonymous after that.

The management that picks up most on the mistakes the last day and builds best on what they did right will win. Analysis is king. That matters more than momentum. Replays don't change in that regard.

Gavin is under a little bit more pressure now to find a solution to this one. Tactically, the questions still remain. Management and players really need to step up to the plate this week and if they do, they'll win.

Irish Independent

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