Sunday 21 January 2018

Alan Brogan: Five things Dublin need to do to beat Mayo

Kevin McManamon shakes hands with Dublin manager Jim Gavin after being replaced by Paul Mannion. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Kevin McManamon shakes hands with Dublin manager Jim Gavin after being replaced by Paul Mannion. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Alan Brogan

Dublin and Mayo clash once more next Saturday. Alan Brogan looks at how Jim Gavin's men can seal another All Ireland title.

1. Match Mayo’s aggressive intensity

Both sets of players worked incredibly hard all over the pitch, but it was Mayo’s aggression that led to so many sub-standard performances from the Dubs. As Lee Keegan himself admits, some of this is right on the edge of legal, and at times he crosses that mark. Twice I saw him drag Diarmuid Connolly to the ground.

At this stage of the championship you do whatever it takes to win. It’s the job of the officials to make sure the game is played inside the rules but at times Conor Lane let things go. The smart players, and Keegan is one of those, read this situation and play right up to where the referee allows.

Their aggression in swarming Dublin’s forwards was superb and those turnovers breathed oxygen into their challenge. Maybe there was a psychological hangover from the semi-final against Kerry but the Dublin players need to go to another level in looking for work both with and without the ball.

2. Win kick-outs further from the goal

Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out strategy is all about retaining possession. Mayo set up for the Dublin kick-out with almost a full-court press. At times they allowed Dublin have the kick-out in the full-back line, but with a mass of Mayo bodies between them and midfield, Dublin struggled to get the ball out with any real momentum.

When Cluxton kicked long, albeit a riskier kick in terms of holding possession, if Dublin won the ball there were gaps in the Mayo defensive structure because their players had pushed up to contest the kick-out. Dublin’s first goal came from a long kick-out which Brian Fenton secured. I feel Dublin have an advantage in terms of ball-winning ability around the middle eight.

3. Revert to one-touch football

For long periods last Sunday, Dublin’s build-up play looked slow and cumbersome. Too many guys took multiple hops and solos, took the pace out of the game and made it easy for Mayo to defend against. We didn’t see the one-touch football and multiple support runs we have come to associate with this Dublin team. Only John Small and Brian Fenton really made any inroads in breaking through the gain line.

More one-touch football and powerful support runs will occupy the extra Mayo defenders

and help to create gaps for Dublin to exploit

4. Look to kick over Mayo cover

When we analysed Donegal under Pat Gilroy in 2011, we reckoned there was space in the Donegal wing-back positions if the ball was transitioned at a quick enough pace. If not, their defenders would occupy these spaces and the chance would be gone, forcing us to carry the ball and try run it through the Donegal defence.

Dublin are playing with a mindset of protecting the ball at all costs and have gone away from the kicking game Jim implemented in 2013. Mayo do not drop as deep as Donegal; instead they seem to site a dense nucleus of players around the midfield area.

If worked correctly, a smart centre-forward will have space left and right of him for quick kick passes from defence. This is crucial as it will force a lot of Mayo players to have to run back towards their own goal. Too often Mayo were able to defend without being turned or really tested by Dublin attackers. And too often Dublin tried to run the ball by hand through the Mayo defence.

5. Get more from the forwards

his may seem an obvious one, but it must be said that three points from play from the Dublin forwards again will more than likely result in defeat. They haven’t been operating at the levels of last year, the lack of goals throughout the year is testament to that. This is possibly as a result of an offensive game-plan designed to beat Donegal.

Mayo are different to Donegal and do give more opportunity and space to opposition forwards. Dublin need to trust their forwards and get it into them quickly. How often have we seen the likes of Bernard and Kev Mac make something out of a speculative long ball? Not many went in last Sunday and that needs to change so the Dublin forwards can do what they do best.

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