Wednesday 21 August 2019

Colm O'Rourke: 'A Junior B match between local rivals would have had more atmosphere than Dublin v Roscommon'

Con O'Callaghan did not mind which way the ball came in last night. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Con O'Callaghan did not mind which way the ball came in last night. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

There wasn't much that was super about Dublin's latest Croke Park massacre. Luckily for the GAA, Dublin play such attractive football that the supporters still turn up in big numbers.

Dublin's kick-passing is in a different league to all other teams and this match revealed a new tactic that is only about 135 years old and was born in Hayes' Hotel. That tactic was to kick the ball into the forwards, often low and in front, but occasionally lorried in high.

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Con O'Callaghan did not mind which way the ball came in last night. If it was in the air he just outfielded his marker. Sean Mullooly must have wished he had gone to see Burt Bacharach in the Iveagh Gardens instead. At least he would have been anonymous there, but in Croke Park he and Conor Daly were being hung out to dry.

Daly showed gross indiscipline after half an hour, a yellow followed within a few minutes by a black for a peevish trip with the boot on O'Callaghan.

Ciaran Kilkenny also showed his ability in the air. He won a long ball in the first half, held off his marker and scored a point. Paul Mannion's shooting for long range points is as good as has ever been seen in the stadium. On one occasion Dublin seemed bored by their inter-passing, Mannion put an end to the messing by belting it over from far out. The smoothness of the follow through was similar to Shane Lowry in Portrush.

All the skills of football are retained by Dublin while other supposedly more sophisticated teams have ditched kicking. The obvious thing for most teams is to copy Dublin's style as much as possible. There is no reinvention of the wheel needed.

Dublin also had Jack McCaffrey purring along down the wing. It is one of the most frightening sights in football for any opposition when McCaffrey sees space and takes off. There should be a motorbike parked on the side of the pitch for the wing forward to give him a chance of catching McCaffrey.

The Dubs also have James McCarthy back. When he went off in the Leinster final he seemed in big trouble with his knee. He appeared in a lot of pain as he is not the type to lie down easily. It is a tribute to the medical team that he is back so quick, either that or he rehabilitated in Lourdes.

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This match told us nothing about either side. Roscommon have to go to Cork for the dead rubber and none of the players will want anything to do with it. The Connacht championship win has lost some of the gloss. It is a provincial title and every player wants to win one, but they are a long way short of the top three or four teams.

In fairness, Conor Cox had a great game and many of the Roscommon players were not lacking heart or effort. Yet this reflects the current dilemma of the GAA, a county like Roscommon making the best use of their limited resources and then getting annihilated in Croke Park. There is a different level of power, pace and skill needed in Croke Park where Dublin are the main act. On Friday night their under 20s also won the Leinster final easily, there is no end in sight to the dominance.

The match itself was over in 15 minutes. Maybe the Dubs were stung by criticism that they were very open against Cork so they decided to kill this off early. It meant most of the game was a ritual humiliation of Roscommon as Dublin's subs came on and played with their foot firmly on the pedal. The conversation on the line must be interesting, it must be like an underage game when the subs line up and ask the manager, "can I go on?" Jim Gavin turns the deaf ear.

There was enough sloppiness from Dublin in the second half to ensure that all other teams, especially Tyrone, will not give up the ghost. Up to half-time the performance was nearly perfect.

The match itself showed that knock-out football at this stage is better than death by a thousand cuts. Dublin have all the best players and giving them two games in Croke Park in the Un-Super 8 only reinforces their superiority. At least a game in some provincial ground would have promotional value and attract a neutral crowd who could marvel at this Dublin team's skill and temperament.

A Junior B match between local rivals would have had more atmosphere than this meeting - and don't think it is going to change any day soon. Dublin, by their brilliance, are destroying the dreams and aspirations of all other county teams.

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