Wednesday 22 November 2017

Black card to blame for defensive football - McEnaney

Ex-Farney boss sees big shift in Dubs' approach

Seamus McEnaney
Seamus McEnaney
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Dublin are back defending with the same depth and numbers as they did four years ago when they won an All-Ireland title under Pat Gilroy in 2011.

That's the view of former Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney, who feels his native county must avoid a third consecutive double-digit defeat to Dublin in Sunday's second League semi-final in Croke Park at all costs.

Dublin mauled Monaghan by 11 points in Sunday's final-round League match in Clones, and for McEnaney the striking feature was how the League champions set up so defensively.

"There were times when they had 12 and 13 players behind the ball. We haven't seen that from a Dublin team since 2011," he said. "For Monaghan's first score Diarmuid Connolly gave the ball away to Owen Duffy when he was on his own 20-metre line," added Monaghan's manager from 2005-10.

"Paul Flynn must have spent 50pc of his time back in that territory too. Monaghan played a sweeper. If that was 12 months ago Dublin would have pushed a man up, but they didn't. Jim Gavin has learned."


McEnaney is adamant that the current concentration of massed defence by so many teams is a by-product of the introduction of the black card last year and says the concept of punishing cynicism in this way has been a "failure" and has had a "detrimental effect" on the game.

"Managers and coaches weren't ready to adapt last season to the black card but they are now and their answer is safety in increased numbers.

"They can't risk their players pressing high up the field and being caught in one-to-one situations, so they defend in numbers. I wouldn't blame any manager for setting up his team this way.

"What the GAA did two years ago was try to kill a fly with a sledgehammer but they have killed more than the fly," he said.

"I never thought there was sufficient need for it to be introduced and I'm of the same view now after watching it for two League campaigns. A yellow card is a sufficient punishment.

"I read Tomás Ó Sé's views last weekend (in the Irish Independent) with interest where he singled out the quality of the All-Ireland semi-finals in making his point about Gaelic football.

"But for one of those All-Ireland semi-finals, the replay in Limerick, the black card was hardly in use at all. If it had been, Kerry wouldn't be All-Ireland champions.

"It's just too inconsistent. Last weekend in Clones Dessie Mone got black-carded but at the other end a Dublin corner-back (Eoin Culligan) should also have got one. He was already on a yellow."

McEnaney believes his point of view is backed up by scoring statistics which show an 11pc decrease across the board - 22pc in Division 1 - on last year's figures.

"There was a lot being made by the GAA and the media about the scoring rates rising last year but it's back down to where it was a couple of years ago again. I don't hear or see too much about scoring now," he said.

McEnaney said the football managers should have made a much firmer stand against its introduction in the build up to Congress in 2013.

"If it was hurling you can be sure Brian Cody or Liam Sheedy, when he was in charge of hurling, wouldn't have stood for it in their game," he said.

He has taken issue with the appointment of Jarlath Burns as chairman of a Standing Rules Committee that can propose playing rule changes for the next three years.

McEnaney believes the position should have gone to a former manager who could "better understand the mind of the modern manager".

"Someone like Jack O'Connor or Martin McHugh, someone who could get inside the head of a manager should have been appointed to the position and know how they might adapt to change," he said.

With Monaghan losing by 17 points to Dublin in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final and by 11 points last weekend, McEnaney feels Farney manager Malachy O'Rourke will be conscious of the need to close the gap.

And he thinks the imminent return of defender Colin Walshe will help their cause. Walshe limped out of last year's quarter-final with a cruciate ligament injury, with Dublin plundering goals just after he had jarred his knee.

Monaghan had been holding their own up to that 20th minute setback. Walshe finished out the match despite the discomfort he was experiencing.

"Colin is close to a comeback. He warmed up last Sunday. But Monaghan also need to give Conor McManus more support up front by playing Kieran Hughes beside him and testing Dublin with diagonal, aerial balls," said McEnaney. "In my view it's the one area that Dublin could be vulnerable to this year."

Irish Independent

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