Monday 20 May 2019

Dick Clerkin breaks down the Super 8s: Dublin out in front of Kerry, but new format can spring surprises


Monaghan’s key man is Rory Beggan, who is currently the best goalkeeper in Ireland. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Dick Clerkin

Dick Clerkin runs the rule over the eight teams remaining in the race for Sam Maguire

Group 1


What makes them tick: Their feet. No other team has the same innate skill levels as this crop of Kerry players, who work possession through the feet at every opportunity.

It allows them to deliver fast, accurate ball to a potentially deadly full-forward line of James O'Donoghue, David Clifford and Paul Geaney, all of whom can finish off either foot .

Biggest flaws: Their youth. It's one thing bouncing about Páirc Uí Chaoimh with a 10-point lead feeding energy into the legs. But when the physicality and pace of the competition cranks up, it will push them to new places.

Key man: David Clifford. Blessed with skill, athleticism and phenomenal timing and awareness, he is a player that can inspire the next golden generation of Kerry footballers.

Forecast: A hesitant tip to make the All-Ireland final. They will top their group, but not without a few major scares.


What makes them tick: A drive to make up for a wretched recent past. As Galway now operate at the level a county of their size and tradition should, it further highlights what was a woeful past decade and more. Older players like Paul Conroy, Sean Armstrong and Gareth Bradshaw look hell- bent on making up for a forgettable era in Galway football.

Flaws: Hiding underneath the blanket! It was evident in the first-half against Roscommon; too many Galway players dropped off their men into obscurity. A team can be defensive without being passive. Galway have a tendency to lean too much towards the latter and it doesn't suit them.

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Key man: Shane Walsh. In a team that plays with high defensive numbers, a player like Walsh who can transition play at speed is invaluable.

Forecast: Third place in Group. The group schedule has been unkind to Galway and could ultimately be their undoing.


What makes them tick: Momentum. Not for the first time Kildare have thrived in the rough and tumble of the qualifiers. They are physically equipped to compete week-in, week-out and they will have grown in confidence from their back-door success.

Flaws: The yips. For as long as I have been watching football, Kildare's shooting has always been erratic. On Saturday night and in Newbridge they were on song, but at other times it seems they lose all confidence in their striking.

Key man: Daniel Flynn. As a full-forward he has the full repertoire of skills, and provides the perfect focal point of attack.

Forecast: Bottom of the group, but not winless - only on scoring difference.


What makes them tick: Their intensity. At their best there are few harder-working teams. While they might lack creativity at times going forward, their hard running and support play can be difficult to defend against. Aggression and tenacity in defence is the foundation of all good Monaghan performances.

Biggest flaws: Slow delivery. Monaghan will always have their fair share of possession around the middle third, but too often the conservative solo run or hand-pass is the first option ahead of quick delivery into the forward line.

Key man: Rory Beggan. The best goalkeeper in Ireland at present. His restarts are flawless and provide a platform for many of Monaghan's attacks. His free-taking from distance gives them a scoring outlet few other teams possess.

Forecast: Group runners-up and beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists. There was enough evidence in their first-half performance yesterday to suggest they can progress from a tough group.

Group 2


What makes them tick: Jim Gavin. The dominance that Dublin have achieved over the past number of years requires more than talent or depth in resources. Gavin's ability to continually extract a staggeringly consistent level of performance is testament to his unrivalled management acumen.

Their biggest flaws: Aggression. One of the few ways Dublin will tip the scales against themselves is if they lose a man in a key game. Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon, John Small and Jack McCaffrey play close to the edge, sometimes too close, and it could cost Dublin one of these days.

Key man: Brian Fenton. On form, consistency and game influence there are few that can rival the Raheny man. If there is a flaw in his game, it has yet to be exposed. He has a full array of skills that provides Dublin with an assured presence in the middle third every day they turn out.

Forecast: All-Ireland champions. Sam Maguire is theirs to keep until somebody proves they are up to their level, phyiscally and mentally.


What makes them tick: Variation in their play. Donegal have evolved their style and that will allow them to compete at the highest level again. Still solid in defence, they have the distribution skills to play it long, or the runners to carry it through the hands. Scorers are spread throughout the team, which lessens the burden on their key marksmen.

Flaws: The loss of Paddy McBrearty. His absence, due to a cruel ACL injury, has effectively sounded the death knell for Donegal's All-Ireland ambitions. You don't replace an X factor player like Paddy, you merely try to compensate for his absence.

Key man: Michael Murphy. A generation player for Donegal whose influence extends well beyond his contributions on the field. His mild off-field manner should not be confused with a ruthlessly aggressive presence on the pitch. It is hard to imagine anyone else captaining Donegal while he is still playing.

Forecast: Beaten semi-finalists. Even with the loss of McBrearty, Donegal could still come out of the group as runners-up to Dublin.


What make them tick: Belief. Even if it doesn't always look like they should, Mickey Harte and his Tyrone teams always believe they can challenge for an All-Ireland title. With minor and U-21 All Ireland medals strewn throughout the panel, they have no inhibitions among loftier company, and will believe they have what it takes to go all the way.

Flaws: Their full-forward line. Without a consistent presence close to the opposition's goal, Tyrone's running attacking play often looks predictable. Mark Bradley and Lee Brennan were hopes in this regard, but injuries have held them back this season. Connor McAliskey is leading the line as best as he can, but there is only so much one man can do.

Key man: Peter Harte. Having struggled with form prior to the Cork game, the 2016 All-Star marked a return to his best in Portlaoise, leading Tyrone's counter-attacking play with pace and precision. He is the key cog in Tyrone's attacking style and they will need him to carry his form into the 'Super 8s'.

Forecast: Third place in the group.


What makes them tick: Their attacking instincts. Their first-half display against Galway was as good as we have witnessed all summer. Controlled, intelligent and positive, they created countless scoring chances against a highly-rated Galway defence. Against Armagh it was their attacking nous that saw them progress after an absorbing contest.

Flaws: Physicality, or lack thereof. In games when the physical stakes are heightened, Roscommon can wilt, and their attacking flair deserts them. In the second-half of the Connacht final they couldn't cope with Galway's strength around the middle third. It is no coincidence that they lost their eye for goal at the same time.

Key man: Enda Smith. While Enda has a tendency to drift in and out of games, when he is in his contributions are significant. With an eye for goal, he is always on the lookout as a provider or finisher.

Forecast: Bottom of the group, but sure to play some eye-catching football.

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