Thursday 22 February 2018

Dublin's power play sets up Donegal semi-final showdown

Dublin's Bernard Brogan celebrates after scoring his side's second goal in the 2-22 to 0-11 win over Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park
Dublin's Bernard Brogan celebrates after scoring his side's second goal in the 2-22 to 0-11 win over Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park

Damian Lawlor

DUBLIN continued their relentless march towards the Sam Maguire in Croke Park last night with a hugely impressive win over Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

The reigning champions had 17 points to spare in their 2-22 to 0-11 win, and will now face Donegal in three weeks time after Jim McGuinness’ side just got over the line against Armagh, winning by 1-12 to 1-11.

Donegal set up in their now customary defensive formation, yet, when they were forced to, the Ulster champions had to unleash two or three men from their blanket to try and forage a score, and it worked.

Late on, Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty clicked and slung over two points, one of them a matchwinner. But, for stages of the game, the sight of Murphy playing at right corner-back was gut-wrenching. Sure, this is modern-day football, and it can be intriguing. But it will never be pretty.

Armagh’s tactics were similar, yet when they surged forward they actually looked extremely dangerous but they, too, brought extra men back. Maybe it kept them in the game for as long as it did.

The other argument is: what would have happened had they taken the shackles off and left four men in the opposition half at all times?

So with words like defence, resilience and rearguards ringing in our ears in the wake of that curtain-raiser, a game Monaghan side fronted up against the best team in the land for the second quarter-final.

And for 25 minutes they were pumped up, aggressive and in the faces of their opponents, and it was working.

Then Diarmuid Connolly pierced through their ranks brilliantly for the goal that changed the game. It was a thing of beauty; a right-footed slider, low to the left of Rory Beggan. It brought a flash  of colour into Croke Park, just before the floodlights were switched on. Moments later Bernard Brogan scored in almost the exact same fashion. Game over. That goal signalled the end of defensive football last night. Instead, swiftness, lethal ferocity, relentless running all came into play, underlining the Dubs’ set-up and their overwhelming of the opposition in a 10-minute period.

If they are to be stopped this year it surely won’t be through the opposition defence holding them. For no blanket defence can shut down a team with six scoring forwards and so many natural runners behind them. Dublin enjoy so much possession that they’ll eventually drag you in.

Their power and ferocity left Monaghan, all hands on deck, pumping the ball up to Chris McGuinness on his own. The Ulstermen trailed by nine points before half-time. In the space of 10 minutes, they had gone from all square to nine points down. It will be intriguing to see how long Donegal’s battle plan will hold up.

At the moment, it looks inevitable that it will be breached at some stage.

Sunday Indo Sport

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