Thursday 22 February 2018

Alan Brogan: I would have done the exact same as Aidan O'Shea

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea falls after being tackled by Che Cullen of Fermanagh which resulted in a penalty. Photos: INPHO/James Crombie
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea falls after being tackled by Che Cullen of Fermanagh which resulted in a penalty. Photos: INPHO/James Crombie

Alan Brogan

Aidan O'Shea's dive was an absolute disgrace, he should be ashamed of himself. His theatrics wouldn't look out of place in the Cristiano Ronaldo book of tricks. I don't know how he showed his face at training on Tuesday night and the Mayo public will never forgive him for what he did in Castlebar last Saturday evening.

What a load of nonsense. What Aidan O'Shea did was an act of gamesmanship that resulted in saving his county in their hour of need. This is elite sport, modern day inter-county football, where the only real rule of engagement is win at all costs.

That is the way it was for me and you can be damn sure that is the way it is for Aidan O'Shea and his Mayo team-mates. On the outside, O'Shea will lie low, but inside the Mayo camp they won't care that he took a tumble under minimal contact. There certainly won't be any apologies to his team-mates for letting the moral standards drop. Anybody who thinks any different has their head in the clouds and doesn't understand the psyche of an inter-county team with serious intentions of winning medals.

I would certainly have done what Aidan O'Shea did to keep my county in the championship and having finished playing I'm not afraid to say it. If we want to rule out this type of gamesmanship, address it in the rules, don't castigate the player.

Read more: It didn't start with Aidan O'Shea : 6 other times 'diving' was an issue in Gaelic football

I met Ciaran Whelan for lunch on Wednesday and he told me how he had typed O'Shea's name into twitter search and the abuse that came up on the results was shocking. I repeated the exercise that night and was equally horrified. Frankly, I'm a lot more worried about the online abuse than I am about the dive.

And maybe that's what Mayo need to help them bridge the 65-year gap - a bit of 'cute hoorism'.

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Aidan O'Shea of Mayo appeals to the referee for a penalty against Fermanagh

If anything, the national dressing down O'Shea received will foster the siege mentality Mayo require if this is to be their year. They should circle the wagons around their talisman, who I'm sure felt a bit of heat last week.

That game was exactly what Mayo needed, a tough test against a formidable outfit, to get their campaign back on the road. I was particularly happy to see my old friend from NUI Maynooth, Alan Dillon, back on the field. He kicked a great score off his weaker left foot when he came on. I know he has been through the mill with a similar groin injury to my own and he definitely has something to offer Stephen Rochford going forward. Last night's victory over Kildare is a sign of further progress and I fancy their chances of getting back to Croker with a decent bit of momentum behind them.

The team with all the momentum still seems to be Dublin; it is difficult to fathom how anybody is going to beat them unless Jim Gavin's men have a serious off-day. This hasn't happened too often in Jim's reign and the lure of back-to-back All-Irelands will keep these guys focused.

In saying that, today's game is still a two-horse race and Westmeath have earned the right to compete in a Leinster final. They were Dublin's opponents last year too, losing by 13 in the end, so there has been a consistency to Westmeath's performances over the last few years. There will be no shame in losing to Dublin and while I have no doubt that this is what will happen, the manner in which they approach this game is what keeps me interested.

Cribbin will have been telling them all week that shocks can happen. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Tom Cribbin

It could well be a smokescreen, but Tom Cribbin spoke about the need to score goals against Dublin. He talked about how they have studied every goal conceded by Dublin in the last few years so his forwards should have an idea of how to go about at least creating some chances .

His plan is to have a real cut at Dublin but that's easier said than done. As I predicted a few weeks back, Jim Gavin's fury at conceding two soft goals to Laois led to a shut-out against Meath. Knowing Gavin and defensive coach Declan Darcy, I'm sure this was something they focused on leading into the Meath game. Dublin may have worked on other elements of their play in the last three weeks, so maybe if pushed hard enough those weaknesses that were evident against Laois may appear again.

Westmeath have players of the calibre of John Heslin and Kieran Martin who are good enough to cause problems for the Dublin full-back line.

What Westmeath cannot afford to do is concede kick-outs to Dublin; they must press man-on-man in the full-forward line and force Stephen Cluxton to kick long. Stephen is the best in the country at kicking to the pockets outside the two midfielders; Westmeath need to try and fill these pockets to stop the ball-winners like Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly breaking into these spaces to take kick-outs from Cluxton.

Stephen Cluxton of Dublin during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton

Make Cluxton kick it long into the midfield battleground and see who has the hunger to win the battle for breaking ball. I've no doubt Westmeath will defend in numbers and try to stop quick delivery into the Dublin full-forward line, but that is the easy part.

The hard part is if and when they get the turnovers - they must break with numbers and at pace to try and unsettle the Dublin backline. This requires a Trojan work-rate from the middle eight and a lot of selfless running, knowing you probably won't receive the ball. This is the type of sacrifice expected in the Dublin set-up, so it's the least Westmeath need to bring to the party.

Dublin will most likely have only one extra man back so if the break is fast and enough Westmeath players commit to the attack to support the likes of Heslin, they can get some joy. If they don't have the self-belief to counter hard and in numbers, this game will end up similar to the Meath game, with Dublin's greater spread of talented scorers tagging on points at will.

It is crucial also that Westmeath do not concede early goals as that type of sucker punch will negate the best laid plans and suck the self-belief out of the team. If they can get to 20 minutes gone and still be in the game, maybe then they can ask some hard questions of Dublin.

Even performing all of the above to the best of their ability won't be enough to dethrone the Dubs and it will be at least August before we see a team with enough quality to really challenge the All-Ireland champions. That day is getting closer and that's enough to keep me intrigued for now.

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