Saturday 7 December 2019

Dazzling young guns make Gavin's arsenal even more frightening

Dublin's Cormac Costello in action against Roscommon's Niall McInerney, left, and Thomas Featherston
Dublin's Cormac Costello in action against Roscommon's Niall McInerney, left, and Thomas Featherston

Eugene McGee

When a football team scores 13 points without reply, you really have to wonder what is going on.

On Saturday in Tullamore, we got a perfect example of what happens when two teams with opposite styles of play go head-to-head and one is totally unable to grasp what is happening.

Roscommon were mesmerised from the start of the game and Dublin simply took near total possession of the game, imposing their style of play to such an extent that their opponents were merely playing bit parts.

Dublin went out to play an expansive game that has been allowed to flourish following the arrival of the black card. They moved the ball with incredible pace and precision, and that left any semblance of man-to-man marking by Roscommon in disarray.

As a team, and as individuals, Roscommon did not know what had hit them. Waves of blue jerseys came at them non-stop and, without having the facility to pull them down outside scoring range, they could only take it all on the chin.

The difference between this game and the Dubs' hard-earned semi-final win over Cavan was that the Breffni County played a largely defensive game, with extra players dropping back as soon as Dublin looked like moving the ball into their half of the field.

Cavan have perfected this style of play in recent years and they certainly put the shackles on Dublin in that semi-final. Indeed, but for a couple of very dubious decisions near the end, it is debatable if the Dubs would have survived.

The Cavan senior team had the lowest 'scores against' tally in the entire National League this year, but in the end it always comes back to who scores the most.

In the U-21 semi-final, Cavan did not score enough and at the heel of the hunt that cancelled out their excellent defensive system.

Some people will ask why Roscommon did not have a Plan B – a packed defence – to implement once they saw how Dublin were playing.

The problem was that, unless it had been well rehearsed, it would have been impossible to make such a fundamental change of style during the course of the first half when the Dublin bandwagon was in full steam and some Roscommon players seemed shell-shocked.

And it must be said that in the opening period of this game, at a time when Roscommon did get a bit of possession, they were laborious in moving the ball from defence to attack with a series of short passing that was absolutely the worst thing you can do when facing a team like this Dublin side, or indeed their senior counterparts, in full flight.

Moving the ball quickly down the field with good foot-passing or running with the ball are critical in taking on the Dublin style of play and sadly, Roscommon did not seem to favour that approach and paid a high price for it.

Of course Roscommon as a team, and the individual players within it, are nowhere as poor as they looked on Saturday – they played brilliant football earlier in this campaign.

They were simply hit with a tsunami of scores in the first half from a fabulously talented full-forward line of Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello and Conor McHugh, who between them bagged 1-18, with 1-10 coming from play. A truly amazing statistic.

Many of these Roscommon players are already on their county senior panel – or even the starting team – and no doubt will prove their worth in Division 2 football next year.

They are all entitled to be sad, but certainly should not be sorry.


The scoring power now available to the Dublin senior team is truly awesome based on what we saw on Saturday.

But there is no need for despair from all the other counties either – after all, the same U-21 forward line was well held in the semi-final, and last year much the same team were actually beaten by Longford at Parnell Park in the championship. And Dublin seniors can still only play 15 players.

Of course, another senior star, Ciaran Kilkenny, missed out on this championship campaign through injury.


* I see where Kerry recently made a proposal to do away with the U-21 grade and replace it with U-19, where it would amalgamate with the minor grade, now U-18.

This makes a lot of sense and the idea seems to be growing in interest around the country. Certainly established senior county players, of which there were about half a dozen playing on Saturday, should not be playing county U-21 as that was never what was intended when the competition was set up back in 1965.

And the U-19 proposal would do wonders for club fixture-making in every county if the idea was to include club competitions.

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Indo Sport

The Left Wing: The problem with the Champions Cup, the Stephen Larkham effect and trouble in Welsh rugby

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport