Friday 17 August 2018

Joe Brolly: Come back Mayo, all is forgiven - Galway's self-defeating system could never trouble Dublin

These are farces when one team wants to play and the other is trained not to, says Joe Brolly

'Jack McCaffrey put in another electrifying performance, coming off in
the 65th minute to be plugged into his charging capsule.'
'Jack McCaffrey put in another electrifying performance, coming off in the 65th minute to be plugged into his charging capsule.'

Joe Brolly

Somebody forgot to tell Galway this was an All-Ireland semi-final. Sean Cavanagh said on RTE radio beforehand he "totally believed Galway will put it up to them." Like that was going to happen. Oul sugary nonsense.

There was no real atmosphere at the game because Galway do not go for it. Instead, they are trapped in a negative system that does not permit any attacking flow. Nothing begets nothing. I thought of the difference had it been Mayo playing yesterday and not this dull, robotic outfit. What a pity we have to endure these farces, one team wanting to play, the other trained not to play.

In the event, the Dubs cruised through the game, giving it the feel of an exhibition rather than one game away from the most cherished prize in Irish sport. Their first seven attacks brought seven points. By half-time they had posted 1-9 from 12 shots. In the second half they managed 15 points from 19 shots. These figures are unprecedented. No team has ever played with such attacking efficiency at this stage of the championship.

They moved the ball swiftly around Galway's static zone, infiltrated the middle of it, pulled them left and right, then struck, getting most of their scores from the kill zone in front of goal. They played with their customary ambition and adventure, exemplified by their goal in the first half, started with a beautiful pass over the top.

Galway, meanwhile, played with two forwards isolated, perhaps 70 metres away from their nearest colleague. When their non-tackling zone won the odd turnover, they moved the ball laboriously forward with hand-passes, being harried all the way by their markers. Like that was going to work. In the second half, they managed 1-5, the goal a jammy one coming in the 73rd minute when they were 12 points behind.

So, Galway traipsed drearily back and forward in their zone, going inevitably towards their gloomy end. Their negativity was exemplified by their tactic of blocking and holding Dublin players off the ball to prevent them competing with their man for the ball.

Instead of wasting all that time on the training ground in a strategy that everyone knew wasn't going to work, why didn't they try football? They were reduced to kicking the odd high, hopeful ball towards the Dublin square in the second half, like the mini footballers during the half-time exhibition, only Dublin's full-backs are adults.

The second half was an embarrassment, with good Galway players giving up since they had no idea how to compete. Shane Walsh's bizarre free-taking rituals - reminiscent of some convoluted synchronised swimming routine - gave the Hill something to taunt and laugh at, but that was as emotional as the game ever became.

Jack McCaffrey put in another electrifying performance, coming off in the 65th minute to be plugged into his charging capsule. Dean Rock missed two frees in the second period, but as usual, did not allow this to distract him, nailing the next one and firing over a magnificent point from play. He was taken off shortly after, but the impression of Dublin's relaxed excellence was confirmed when Cormac Costello steered the very next, horribly difficult, free over the black spot.

Regardless of how woeful Galway's system of play is, Dublin were, as always, a pleasure to watch. They probed, and galloped, playing with verve and authority. It was of course very easy for them, since Galway are so utterly predictable and so utterly unimaginative.

I have been saying since the start of the year that Galway's system could only end in failure. This was abysmal, self-defeating stuff and the Dubs - who love a good contest - must have been disappointed that they continue to be untested in this championship.

Bring back Mayo, all is forgiven.

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