Thursday 19 January 2017

Wayward Dubs give chasing pack cause for hope

Published 18/07/2015 | 02:30

Stephen Cluxton, one of the players relied upon by Dublin
Stephen Cluxton, one of the players relied upon by Dublin

Last Sunday gave all of the other leading contenders cause for hope as they watched Dublin struggle to break down Westmeath's massed defence.

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They won well in the end, but they only managed eight points in the first half and they kicked 16 wides. Their shot selection at times was very poor and they passed laterally back and across the half-forwards far too much.

A better team than Westmeath will make it much more difficult for them.

Westmeath deserve a lot of credit because they were playing with a new system for the first time and it was their biggest game of the year. Because they are at an early stage of their development, they hadn't had a chance to practice the system enough.

This means they weren't able to transition from defence to attack quickly enough and ended up doing silly things like taking crazy shots off balance and dropping the ball short to the goalkeeper, which they did six times in the first half alone.

A better team - Donegal, for example - won't do this. They know how to transition from mass defence to lightning attack - they know on any given occasion who is to go and who is to stay and they have they have the forwards to do damage.

What we saw on Sunday was that Dublin, though they are still the favourites for the All-Ireland, aren't unbeatable; in Stephen Cluxton, Rory O'Carroll, Michael Darragh Macauley and Diarmuid Connolly, they have four players they rely very heavily upon.

On Sunday, I expect Donegal to beat Monaghan in the Ulster final. Both teams have their defensive systems well in place and they're both very strong around the middle of the field, so this game will be won up front.

Donegal have more players there to make a difference, with a better spread of scorers.

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