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After cruising into another All-Ireland semi-final, Jim Gavin and his Dublin team have received some richly deserved plaudits, but despite another power show there remains an overwhelming feeling that Donegal's blanket will provide a much sterner test of the Dubs' than the Farney County's sheet that lay tattered and torn last Saturday evening.

After cruising into another All-Ireland semi-final, Jim Gavin and his Dublin team have received some richly deserved plaudits, but despite another power show there remains an overwhelming feeling that Donegal's blanket will provide a much sterner test of the Dubs' than the Farney County's sheet that lay tattered and torn last Saturday evening.

The basis of this argument has it origins from that infamous semi-final meeting from 2011, when Jim McGuiness literally parked the bus in front of Paul Durcan's goal, leading to an image appearing in the press the following day showing a lone Colm McFadden in the company of six Dublin defenders.

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Last Saturday evening it was more often than not Chrissy McGuinness (until substituted) who got landed with the sole attacking role, but unlike three years ago, Monaghan were unable to lay a seed of doubt in Dublin heads and, more importantly, were incapable of supporting their sole outlet when they did make their way into Dublin territory.

It is probably herein that Monaghan lost the game before ever a ball was kicked. There is no doubt that Malachy O'Rourke, as with Jim Gavin and indeed Jim McGuinness, plough hours into analysing their opponents and briefing their teams on what to expect or how to counter-act their various strengths, but when stopping the opposition fundamentally disrupts your own game plan, you're going to have problems.

On several occasions last Saturday, especially so in the opening 22 minutes, Monaghan ticked the box on what they set out to do, squeezing the space that Dublin have thrived on all year, and forcing them to make that extra pass in amongst a mass of bodies that allowed a Monaghan defender get a hand in to thwart the attack.

That Dublin struggled with this was down to the fact that early on the pace at which they attacked seemed to be below par, and with the movement in the Dubs' front six severely restricted by the extra bodies, the expanses of Croke Park suddenly appeared significantly more constrained.

But by placing this over-emphasis on stopping or containing Dublin, Monaghan created two major problems for themselves. Firstly, when they did engineer a turnover, having pulled so many players back behind the ball, including their top marksman Conor McManus, on numerous occasions they found themselves 40 yards from goal with nothing to hit inside and relying on McManus to be both creator and scorer.

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Secondly, and most critically, by conceding Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs, they invited wave after wave of pressure onto themselves, allowing Dublin's half-back line to grow into the game, best illustrated by both Nicky Devereux and James McCarthy, in particular, whose pass after breaking the tackle resulted in Dublin's second goal.

While Monaghan certainly contributed to their downfall, Dublin's power play is ultimately what won the game. Aware that Monaghan would be top-heavy with players inside their own '45, Dublin operated in stark contrast to O'Rourke's instructions, pressing so high up the field that even goalkeeper Rory Beggan had an attempted clearance blocked down.

But while the Dublin management team are now deemed to have passed their first test against the dreaded blanket defence, both Philly McMahon and Jim Gavin were quick to point out, despite what the final scoreline suggests, just how stern an examination Monaghan had posed, throwing water on the fire before the flames spread northwards to further ignite Donegal's challenge.

Although doubts may hang over just where the current Ulster champions are now versus either 2011 or their All-Ireland winning year of 2012, there can be no question that McGuinness' team have a far more developed blanket system in operation which, when purring, has a stellar cast.

Michael Murphy demonstrated real leadership all through against Armagh, with his equalising score proof positive of just why the big Glenswilly man is one of the modern games greatest exponents.

And even though Colm McFadden and Paddy McBrearty struggled to exert any real influence on proceedings, the later's winning score - which meant the full-forward line finished with 0-10 of their 1-12 total - showed great self belief given just how poor some of his shooting had been up until that point.

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But while these three guys offer the scoring threat, the piece of the jigsaw Donegal will be looking to hone in the build up to August 31 is the defensive shield that maybe struggled at times against Armagh, albeit with Karl Lacey appearing to carry a knock from early in proceedings.

That the game has moved on considerably since that 2011 semi-final is undoubted, but with a coveted All-Ireland final place on offer both teams may just have to produce something out of the ordinary to ensure their particular style of football wins out on the day.


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