Wednesday 19 June 2019

Alan Brogan: I feel a little bit saddened to see quality Dublin players moving the ball sideways and backwards

Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin
Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin

Alan Brogan

So Dublin have successfully navigated the inaugural Super 8 stage of the All-Ireland series, with considerably more substance than style.

What struck me most about last night's win against Tyrone was the way their focus on game management seems to have developed this year. Dublin led this game by six points at one stage and it's not too long since they would have gone for the jugular in that situation and killed the game off.

Now they seem to be determined to run the clock down from a long way out. It's a dangerous game to play because it can allow your opponents back into the match - as happened with Tyrone who recovered from looking dead and buried to get within two points. But for a missed free they would have got it back to a one-point deficit and the game becomes little more than a lottery then.

When I played under Jim Gavin we always had a game plan that the players were expected to implement. However, he always encouraged us to express ourselves within that structure and I think it's fair to say that Dublin were admired, maybe grudgingly in some cases, for the flair with which they played the game.

Wearing my supporter's hat now, I feel a little bit saddened to see players of the quality of Ciaran Kilkenny, for example, moving the ball sideways and backwards rather than looking to build attacking moves when in possession.

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Tyrone’s Cathal McShane in action against Dublin’s Philly McMahon in Healy Park last night. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone’s Cathal McShane in action against Dublin’s Philly McMahon in Healy Park last night. Photo: Sportsfile

I don't lay the blame for this at Gavin's or Dublin's door. If you have a five or six-point lead and you're faced with a six-man half-back line, as Dublin were at times last night, you are going to be very reluctant to be responsible for giving the ball away.

KPIs (key performance indicators) and other stats have become a huge part of preparation for games and no player wants to see anything in the turnovers column after his name.

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And that is why football will really miss Mayo in the closing stages of this year's championship. Mayo knew how to get after Dublin, forcing them to play brave attacking football. I fear that if and when Dublin meet Galway and/or Monaghan again, we will be forced to endure more of last night's fare.

By the time the referee sent them in for the break, the game had developed from a very cagey start with both teams wary of making costly mistakes.

There was some good football played during that half, but for me the tackle of Paul Mannion on Connor McAliskey was head and shoulders above anything else. And I have to say, it came as no surprise.

Since Mannion took a year out from the game he has really bulked up and worked very hard on his tackling. I now see him as the best tackler in the Dublin squad and the fact that he was able to deny McAliskey a one-on-one with Stephen Cluxton is testament to his discipline and upper-body strength.

Everything is on the line today for Kerry and Kildare. Cian O'Neill was probably happy enough with his team's performance against Monaghan, despite leaving with nothing, but it's a big ask now for them to beat Galway and Kerry to reach an All-Ireland semi-final.

If they have one thing in their favour it's that the match is in Newbridge today and the Kildare faithful will be hoping for a repeat of what they saw against Mayo.

They matched Monaghan all the way and with Neil and Daniel Flynn in good form, they have enough to trouble Galway. I just think Galway are a bit further down the road and after an historic win against Kerry, it would be a disaster for them to slip up today.

Galway will set up with a very solid defensive structure, Kildare have had mixed results playing against this type of system this year, coming unstuck against Carlow but then destroying Fermanagh in the qualifiers. There will be plenty of talent on show with Damien Comer and Shane Walsh leading the line for Galway, who I expect to win by three.

In today's other game, Kerry's season hangs on a knife-edge. There's been of a bit of a rallying cry from some of the ex-Kerry players during the week in the hope that they can turn their season around today. Maybe it's too much to ask too soon of these young Kerry stars, but there's no doubt coming up against Monaghan in Clones in the championship will make men of some of these young players.

Ironically, it's the senior players they need to step up now. David Moran, Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue are due to deliver big performances. I was baffled not to see Kieran Donaghy or Darran O'Sullivan feature the last day. I played international rules with Kieran and he is the ultimate team player, but he must have been quietly seething on the sidelines as the game passed Kerry by.

He will be in today and with a point to prove. Rarely does he fail to deliver when the chips are down. His huge presence is what Kerry need today in what will be a new experience for so many of the Kingdom squad.

I remember the only time I played in Clones, against Derry in the championship in 2003, and we had to warm up on a field up the road from the pitch. It meant mixing with the crowd on the way to the ground, which wasn't ideal, but in a way I enjoyed it and remember the atmosphere quite fondly.

Kerry must embrace the atmosphere as I'm sure the Monaghan crowd will make it quite a hostile occasion for them. Monaghan will certainly smell blood. Here's an opportunity for them to secure an All-Ireland semi-final spot with a game to spare.

Conor McManus will probably get a bit more space to operate in than he does usually in the Ulster Championship, for the purists he is a joy to watch in full flight and Kerry will need to keep him under wraps. Monaghan are well capable of playing football and competing with this Kerry side, but there is simply too much at stake for Kerry to lose this one.

If Kerry do lose, I'd imagine it will cost Eamonn Fitzmaurice his job and probably be the end of Donaghy's great career. I genuinely hope it's not and I'm going for a much-improved Kerry performance and a five-point win.

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