Tuesday 21 May 2019

Eugene McGee: Complacent Dublin give gilroy food for thought

Eugene McGee

The psychological impact of a football team scoring a goal just before half-time is recognised as a seminal event -- especially in a big final -- but when it happens twice within a minute, then the victims hardly ever recover to win.

So it was with Dublin yesterday -- and it was hardly a coincidence that, 10 minutes earlier, Meath had lost their excellent full-back Kevin Reilly through injury. Even in the present style of non-stop movement among players, this pivotal position is one that stands for safety first in the last line of defence, so Reilly's absence was critical.

Up until the two goals, we were treated to a wonderfully exciting game of open play that seemed to be a blast from the past -- with traditional kick-outs and, believe it or not, even clean, high catching in the middle of the field. We were all eagerly looking forward to a continuation of that in the second period, but the half-time conversation was that the game was over with Dublin leading by eight points.

That was fairly rash talk when we remembered that it was Meath they were playing and, fair play to their players, they did their best to stage a traditional Royal rally. 'Banty' McEnaney, however, does not have the same selection of quality forwards that often dug out Meath from even more desperate situations in the past.


Several inexperienced Meath players took wrong options and fairly easy scoring opportunities went astray. In the end, that cost them a famous victory -- on the basis of their second-half comeback, they deserved at least a draw.

Unusually, for a Dublin team leading by eight points at the break, the All-Ireland champions did not go to town in the second half and, indeed, they were a bit careless and messy in their play on several occasions, which almost proved disastrous.

This was particularly true for the Dublin backline, where Meath steamrolled through on several occasions with alarming ease and the dubs were lucky that great work by Meath forwards was so often wasted with wild shooting.

Meath outscored Dublin by 1-8 to O-6 in the second half, which was a huge boost for the future of this team. At the same time, it leaves Pat Gilroy and his fellow mentors with a lot to ponder upon as they continue on the trail to retain their All-Ireland crown.

The quality of the Dublin play in the second half was careless and several players have a lot of explaining to do with regard to their attitude in that period.

Being complacent was never something Dublin football teams were accused of in the past, but it certainly looked that way yesterday after those two goals. But getting complacent against Meath in a Leinster final? Now that takes some doing, bearing in mind the history of the Dublin-Meath clashes over the years.

The loss through injury of Alan Brogan in the first half was a very serious blow to the Dubs, as a lot of the sense of direction and discipline in the forward line seemed to go through him. His future well-being will surely concern Dublin fans, but at least they had the reassurance of his brother Bernard, who was calmness personified when scores were needed.

The composition of the Dublin team was interesting from the start, with their two-man full-forward line of Bernard Brogan and Kevin McManamon, and Michael Darragh Macauley acting as a third midfielder with a roving brief.

So, too, was the decision to play Kevin Nolan in favour of previously reliable centre-back Ger Brennan, with Cian O'Sullivan coming into the half-back line also.

In the first half that particular line did very well and later Meath replaced two of their direct opponents, Damien Carroll and Alan Forde. But that half-back line started to go AWOL after half-time as the Meath forwards, with a lot of passion -- but not enough subtlety -- careered through the Dublin defence with ease.

Meath people will admire their team's persistence and their great fightback in the final quarter, but the rally was always hampered by some awful shooting, with every forward guilty.

No taking easy points actually cost them a most unlikely victory at the finish and a look at the DVD will cause much anguish with the relevant players.

It was interesting that in the 58th minute, when Eoghan O'Gara scored a point, the umpires waved it wide, eventually. Play was about to continue before a linesman -- well-known referee Maurice Deegan -- spoke to referee Marty Duffy and he went in and ordered a score to be recorded.

It was an important decision, because had the score not been allowed, Meath would only have been two points behind near the finish rather than three.

If all linesmen were as sharp and as brave as Deegan, the GAA could forget about the costly Hawk-Eye system.

I must say, in my innocence, I had always thought that when the two umpires agreed on something, the referee could not overrule them.

Irish Independent

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