Monday 16 December 2019

Eugene McGee: Indiscipline and creaking defence a concern for Dubs

Dublin’s Kevin McManamon shrugs off Mark Donnelly and fires past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan only to have his shot cleared off the line in Omagh
Dublin’s Kevin McManamon shrugs off Mark Donnelly and fires past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan only to have his shot cleared off the line in Omagh

Eugene McGee

The huge Tyrone contingent in Omagh yesterday experienced every emotion as they watched their team battle it out with Dublin in a roller-coaster of a game.

Despair at the start when hit with two goals within a couple of minutes, being outplayed for most of the first half, staging a great rally in the second half, having a last-second chance from their talisman Sean Cavanagh to save the day only for the ball to go wide... What a day for the Tyrone fans.

All this and much more created an incredible occasion before Dublin showed just why they are All-Ireland champions by retaining their composure to set up the winning score from a free by Diarmuid Connolly.

This was a severe test for the champions, who were without some of their leading performers, but while they won the game and reached the league semi-final, their management team will have a lot to ponder in the coming week.

Because Dublin did an awful lot of silly things: they gave away far too many frees, they were very indisciplined, with a red and several yellow cards, and once again their backline was shown to be vulnerable when faced with players running at speed.

They conceded eight scores from frees and Tyrone messed around with another half-dozen placed balls that could all have been scored – which would have sent the champions home empty-handed.

Tyrone management will be fairly happy despite losing because they were faced with a terrible handicap of a seven-point deficit after just four minutes.

Dublin should have gone for the jugular when their opponents were shell-shocked but they did not drive their superiority home, and having reached half-time only six points down Tyrone were in with a shout.

The Dubs only managed one point in the 15 minutes after half-time, while Tyrone got five, and even some firepower from the bench did not work wonders for the champions this time.

The Tyrone players grew in confidence, outscoring Dublin in the second half 1-8 to 0-6, although 1-5 of that came from placed balls in a game that had far too many frees and hovered on the edge of nastiness without ever boiling over.

This has to go down as 'progress reported' for Tyrone because a high-tension game like this will surely advance the cause of the Red Hand rebuilding project. No doubt, in the first half, many of their fans would have been lamenting the absence of some of their great players of recent years, something all fans are wont to do when their team is in dire trouble, yet there seems to be enough talent to keep them in the top half-dozen teams in the country.

They certainly need more real scoring power, as distinct from relying on frees – I feel a better backline than Dublin had out yesterday will prove that later in the season, especially in Ulster.

The seven league games have exposed doubts in some Dublin minds, but of course absent players have caused some of that. They will go into the championship missing two of their first 15 from last year who are injured for 2014 and there is no room for complacency, particularly in their backline.

However, Dublin's greatest asset is their ability to close out tight games, as they showed yesterday, and that is the sort of self-belief that all great Dublin football teams thrived upon in the past.

GAA has duty to ensure Sky deal leaves no supporters out in the cold

It seems all the 'important people' in Irish society, GAA and otherwise, have felt obliged to impart their own wisdom on the GAA-Sky story during the past week.

But when you take out the contributors with vested interest, the people who seem to be able to look into the future with certainty and the rush of players who are already acolytes of Sky Sports, getting any reasonable discussion was a rarity.

Last week, I wrote a small item about the topic because I felt that a large section of GAA people were going to be disenfranchised by the pay-per-view deal.

The rest of the deal does not concern me one way or another.

I am glad that a great number of people have come out and agreed that those who do not and never will pay for Sky will be greatly inconvenienced, to say the least, when they will miss out on watching 14 games on Sky only this summer.


That is my only concern and judging from the reaction this week this really is a genuine problem.

Perhaps when the deal was announced some reference should have been made by the GAA about this problem rather than glossing over it.

The only hope now is that we will see a return to the golden days of 60 years ago when Michael O'Hehir's radio commentaries would be the focal point of one of the few houses in the parish that owned a radio set and all the neighbours would crowd around to listen.

It may turn out to be like that for the households that do have Sky.

Or maybe the GAA or Sky would provide an incentive for GAA clubs to install Sky in their clubhouses on the 14 match days.

Whatever is done these dedicated GAA people who cannot attend games should be facilitated – the money is surely there to do that.

Sneering at those people in rural Ireland is not the GAA way of doing things, nor is the discrimination where people who can afford Sky can watch the games but those who cannot afford to will not.

The GAA has never before discriminated against members who cannot afford to watch games on TV or attend games.

Surely that should remain the situation next summer.

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