Colm O'Rourke: Tyrone must go all-out attack to rattle Dubs
A gallant Monaghan reached the end of the line last weekend, while Galway limped home knowing that the progress they have made is still a mile short of the top. A new departure is needed for them with a different style and some changes in personnel. The good news for Galway is that there is definite potential in both areas.
Other teams have demonstrated that there is still a role for defenders to man-mark while the team operates with one sweeper. Galway will have to refine their version of defending and get away from a cluster of players lining up on the 45-metre line trying to direct the attackers into someone else's zone.
Their attack was found out too, but that is the case for every county going up against Dublin. If Galway can introduce another four or five players, who probably are there, then they could build incrementally on this year.
But there is a question as to whether players will give three or four years in this pursuit with no guarantees of ultimate success. Connacht championships are not what these players should be satisfied with.
Monaghan left the stage with many regrets. Some outside their control. The big refereeing calls went against them and those have been well highlighted. At this stage of the championship the very best referees should take charge of all the games. And why is there this silly nonsense of saying that a referee who gets the semi-final won't get the final?
Meath may not be top of the charts with players at the moment but in my humble opinion the two best referees are from Meath, David Gough and David Coldrick. Conor Lane is probably next best. Neither of the top two refereed last weekend. Why not give them these games and one of them the final too?
There appears to be a view that it is important to blood new refereeing talent in big games. That is what the league is for. The best players at the top level of championship football deserve the best referees. Monaghan certainly suffered as a result last Sunday. It did not matter on Saturday in the semi-final between Galway and Dublin. Rex the dog could be thrown the whistle and it would not change the result. As it was, Barry Cassidy was not bad, but that is not the point.
Monaghan should not hang their hat on a few bad decisions, even if the Monaghan supporters will never understand why referee Anthony Nolan had his arm raised which seemed to indicate a free in to Kieran Hughes and then did not blow the whistle. These moments in the last seconds of a big game are obviously exaggerated in the minds of all, as a free then would likely have sent the game to extra-time. Perhaps it would have been fairest but what has fairness got to do with anything in football or in life?
The Monaghan performance was nothing like as adventurous as the one against Galway. Of course the Tyrone defence is much better than Galway's and Tyrone are a better all-round team but Monaghan suffered all through by not getting more men ahead of the ball. It meant that any player making a burst out of defence invariably had to stop, turn around and play the ball backwards. All momentum stalled.
It was not much different for Tyrone either, but they had a better spread of scorers. Early on it looked as if they would blow Monaghan away with pace and scoring power. That waned fairly quickly and it was noticeable that there was not the same impact off the bench as against Donegal. The reason was simple and something I wrote about last week. Some of the players like Lee Brennan and Kieran McGeary are better than the players who started against Donegal. If the roles are reversed and they start, then the subs who come on will not have the desired effect. So it transpired. Only Dublin have a panel where players are inter-changeable to the extent that it will barely affect performance.
Tyrone are now being advised by all as to how to manage their kick-outs against Dublin and on the marking arrangements for players like Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny. There is a lot of educated rubbish talked about kick-outs by people who have never had to coach a team on a kick-out strategy. The first point is that a lot of goalkeepers are not skilled enough in dead-ball kicking to carry out any plan. Niall Morgan does not fit into that category but he relies on players outfield to make runs and space. That often does not happen and opposition players are generally alert enough to stop things at source.
The other thing is that just because a kick-out is lost does not mean that it is the goalkeeper's fault. Too often now outfield players, and midfielders in particular, want to pass on the responsibility of actually winning the ball in the air. There is a great bonus now for a catch with the mark and it is no problem for Colm Cavanagh and Brian Fenton to go to the clouds and pull a big one down. That will be a great battle in the final. It was an area that Dublin won, hands up so to speak, in last year's semi-final.
Anyway, we are now down to the two best teams even if Tyrone have already lost twice in the championship, which may appear a contradiction. Yet they are probably best-equipped to take on Dublin who always seem to be playing well within their capabilities. Hopefully Tyrone are able to take them out of their comfort zone. To do so would go against the very conservative game-plan which has got Tyrone to the final. Will they risk everything on all-out attack?
The chances of that are slim but it would make for a great first half, at least. It might even gloss over - a little at least - the fact that this has been a boring championship with everyone bar Dublin playing a rotten style.
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