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McGuinness schemes the demise of Dublin

"Dublin are unbelievably systematic: how they position their full forwards, their centre forward role . . . they churn these things out on the training ground.

"I firmly believe that the top, top teams are so good at what they do that they actually give other teams an opportunity to beat them.

"They are so good at what they do, their patterns become clear. Whereas if you have a team that plays off-the-cuff, it is difficult.

"Look at Barcelona . . . the best club side in the world, unbelievably flamboyant players . . . but their system is unbelievably rigid.

"So I think that is true of all top sports teams."

THE above quote from Jim McGuinness is taken from an interview he gave only this past June ... but it's fair to say, to one degree or another, he's had Dublin in his crosshairs for quite some time longer.

Which means that McGuinness, an erudite tactician, won't have spent much of the past 48 hours slavishly formulating a modus operandi for his players for their next visit to Croke Park on August 31st.

He's probably constructed it already.

Dublin's performance against Monaghan is unlikely to have changed much either. If anything, the scale of Dublin's dominance on Saturday probably just strengthened his belief in an approach.

From here in, it's about perfecting it.

"There's plenty of work to be done," admitted Frank McGlynn (pictured, right), a man vital to this Donegal system in both the defensive and attacking aspects, after Armagh had been narrowly denied access to the last four.

"It mightn't have worked out for us and then we would have been left to rue that performance so we're glad to have a chance now to go back to the training field on Tuesday night again and have plenty to work on."

Quite what they're working on will be the centre of much speculation between now and August 31st and, in truth, will dominate the conversation.

It's hard not to be intrigued by a man who once forced his players to surrender their mobile phones on the morning of the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final in order to keep Donegal's plans classified until such time as they took shape on the pitch.

So what will Donegal do? What can they do?

Jam 14 men in their half, à la 2011, and instruct Jim 
Gavin's men to have a go if they think they're good enough?

With all that pace and all that strength and, as demonstrated last Saturday night, such high-quality, tight, intricate, in-close hand-passing, they'll weave a way eventually and won't panic while they're working it out either.

And anyway, you won't get too many scores with just one man in Dublin's half of the field.

Colm McFadden ain't was he was in 2011, when he ploughed something of a lone furrow against Dublin or, more to the point, during his deadly 2012 zenith.

Dublin score much more than any other team not because they take a disproportionately higher percentage of scoring chances, but because they create a far greater volume of opportunities.

Going into Saturday, Dublin had taken 53pc of their scoring openings, although that rose to 61pc against Monaghan.

At the other end, Conor McManus was forced into kicking wides not customary for a man of his quality, mostly because he came under such sustained pressure from Rory O'Carroll and Dublin's defensive cavalry.

Previously that afternoon, Donegal kicked 15 wides against Armagh.

"It's not like us," reckoned McGlynn. "We didn't take our chances when we had them. I suppose you could look back on the first half when they were on top and they didn't take their chances either. It was much of a muchness for both teams so we were just glad to get the victory."

Speaking after he had collected Sky Sports Man of the Match award, Philly McMahon (pictured, right) touched upon why Dublin were ultimately successful in the face of such unprecedented resistance in that 2011 semi-final.

"We stuck to the plan that day and eventually broke them down," he said.

Speaking pre-Monaghan, Cian O'Sullivan was more specific but no more right.

"I think Kevin McManamon came on and made a big difference that day and he was a guy who just when he had the ball really took on players and drew men in or slipped the ball off to free men.

"I definitely think that's one of the facets with coming up against opposition that set themselves up like that."

Any outside factors to consider? Hype?


The hype train left Dublin in 2011. Winning an All-Ireland will do that for a county's yearning.

And even if the city goes into pre-2011-style meltdown over the next three weeks, this bunch of players and their manager are pretty immune from public displays of hysteria and almost blacked-out from media glare.

To attend one of Jim Gavin's press conferences is not a precursor to leaving in any way enlightened.

Just with the odd sense that you'd definitely feel a lot safer if he was in the cockpit next time you boarded an aircraft.

There's probably not a whole lot of love lost between these teams either.

It was lost in the purist outcry afterwards, but there were bitter words and harder hits exchanged during the 2011 game too.


Diarmuid Connolly was sent off but exonerated by the CHC and if even he is, as Joe Brolly said on Sunday night, displaying a "Zen-like calm" on the pitch in the glare of extreme provocation these days, he'll probably need all the yoga he can get between now and then.

And you may as well check for a pulse if you hadn't - even before the fixture was confirmed - imagined what Eoghan O'Gara versus Neil McGee looks like.

Sub-plots aplenty, then.

But the main thread is as it has been ever since pre-prime versions of these teams parted ways after the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final.

What happens when an immovable force meets an unstoppable juggernaut?

We've three long weeks to think this one through.