Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 19 February 2018

Beating the system key to Dublin hopes

There is a lot of talk all week that this is the most important game of football Dublin have played for donkey's years and if they lose to Donegal it will in effect be the end of the world for GAA in the capital.

But this is no more than the bloated comments we always see emerging whenever Dublin get to the closing stages of the All-Ireland.

It's all nonsense, of course, because win or lose tomorrow the Dublin football team will be in the top half dozen in the country more or less indefinitely in the future.

That has been the way now for about 40 years and it will not change because of one defeat, or one victory.

What people who make such comments probably mean is that because Dublin have failed so often in the past 10 years to capitalise on Leinster success it means that they are simply not good enough now to even advance to an All-Ireland final, let alone collect the Sam Maguire Cup.

That is a valid enough argument, but there is a very simple explanation for this failure -- none of the Dublin teams of recent years have been good enough to win the All-Ireland, full stop.

They have failed in the closing knockout stages to Kerry, Tyrone, Armagh and Cork in recent seasons, and it is no coincidence that those counties have won all the titles since 2002.

So if Dublin want to win this year they have to be better than in any of the previous years.

That has been the nub of any serious debates I have had with Dublin GAA followers, including some of their former greats going back to the early 1970s -- how good are this Dublin team by comparison with the true barometer of Gaelic football, Kerry?

Tomorrow will certainly go a long way to answering that question, although the ultimate answer will have to wait for at least another day.

The signs are good that Dublin have their best team of this decade, but that has not been proven based on the teams Dublin have played so far in 2011.

Tyrone used to be the true barometer but that ended last year when the beginning of the end was clearly visible for Mickey Harte's team.

By comparison with the media attention Dublin teams get, the coverage of Donegal fades into the background, which is wonderful for manager Jim McGuinness.

The county itself has gone plain mad with excitement but Donegal is geographically so large that such euphoria is not as visible as in a smaller county.

The meteoric manner of Donegal's arrival from nonentity last year to the last four in the championship has surprised most GAA people but McGuinness is obviously a very talented manager, motivator and manipulator of public opinion within and outside Donegal, and these are the crucial requirements for success as a team boss.

Everybody knows that Donegal's football reputation has been flaky, to say the least, and we have seen many examples of their teams self-destructing in the past.


But not this year, as a carefully devised tactical structure designed on keeping opponents scoring no more than 10 times in any game has worked brilliantly from Donegal's point of view.

At this stage of the All-Ireland, the style played is irrelevant to the teams. Donegal have opted for a negative policy -- in traditional GAA terms -- of crowding out the opposing forwards simply by having up to 10 defenders when required.

So the result is simple to anticipate -- if Donegal's defensive system contains Dublin to the previous pattern of around 10 scores then Donegal will win.

However, if the Donegal defensive system is breached then Dublin could win by anything up to seven or eight points.

Using the long foot-pass will be the key to Dublin not alone undermining the Donegal defensive system but also wreaking havoc throughout their team, as the likelihood of Donegal having a reliable Plan B is remote when faced with the quality of players Dublin have.

With a more diverse panel of players than Donegal, Dublin have the resources on the sideline to change their style of play if needed.

I doubt if Donegal have that so Dublin should get through to that 'dream final'.

Irish Independent

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