Friday 20 April 2018

Discipline issues leave Dubs with much to ponder

Some of Sunday's incidents went against Gavin's ethos - and proved costly

John Small, Dublin, gets involved in an altercation with Andy Moran, Mayo, as referee Joe McQuillan signals for a penalty for Mayo
John Small, Dublin, gets involved in an altercation with Andy Moran, Mayo, as referee Joe McQuillan signals for a penalty for Mayo
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Almost three and a half years ago, Dublin travelled to MacHale Park for a re-fixed League match against Mayo and suffered one of their worst defeats of Pat Gilroy's reign.

On the night that Conor Mortimer kicked himself into Mayo's scoring record books, chinks in Dublin's disciplinary armoury also surfaced, with a red card for Paul Flynn and a double yellow for Diarmuid Connolly late on reducing their numbers to 13.

Gilroy didn't stand on ceremony afterwards with the general rebuke he delivered to his players on the discipline, or lack of it, that he felt they showed.

"Last year and the year before we had great intensity to everything we did and we had great discipline in everything we did," he commented.

"That has deserted us for most of this year. We really have to sit down and look at that sharply or else we will have a very short year.

"(It was) very poor discipline from us," he continued. "They weren't the only guys, the two lads that got sent off. Our discipline and our general intensity all night wasn't great."

For a manager to give such a public admonishment of his team is rare but that was Gilroy's way. What he saw, he generally called.


As it transpired their season wasn't cut that short but it ended with defeat to Mayo in an All-Ireland semi-final, the Connacht champions showing a cynical streak themselves to run the clock and hold on to a lead in the closing stages.

In taking over from Gilroy, Jim Gavin set discipline as a pillar of his management. For the most part, with a few notable exceptions, it has been generally been good.

The topic of discipline is never far from his conversation and he references it quite often.

Never, though, has he taken the Gilroy line of public censure.

After an O'Byrne Cup game against Kildare earlier this year that they won after extra-time, he expressed himself "very happy" with discipline. This, despite the fact that six players had been yellow carded, one (Jonny Cooper) had picked up a black card while Michael Darragh Macauley had been dismissed.

A few weeks later Gavin expressed further satisfaction "with how our players held their discipline" during a sometimes fraught Croke Park League match with Donegal that had clear residue from their All-Ireland semi-final meeting six months earlier.

"It is a core value of the team to maintain their discipline both on and off the field," he said on the night.

Could Gavin be satisfied with the level of discipline showed by his players during Sunday's drawn All-Ireland semi-final?

Once again a Dublin-Mayo clash has produced sparks and a cynical and nasty undercurrent that has been so often disguised by their capacity to play open, thrilling football in front of large crowds.

For sure,there was ill-discipline on both sides, and Dublin have legitimate complaints about the fact that one of their players was forced off with a nasty facial wound after just three minutes that sidelined him for the rest of the game.

No retrospective action will be taken against Cillian O'Connor for lashing out at Rory O'Carroll, who had attempted to restrain him as he sought to break free.

But too many incidents happened from a Dublin point of view that went against their manager's disciplinary values that he has been so strong on since taking over.

So many actions were out of sync with the normal control that Dublin have brought to their game - from Cooper's wild challenge on Diarmuid O'Connor that only merited a yellow card but could have resulted in more damage, to Cian O'Sullivan's cynical tug of O'Connor's jersey and then challenge on Cillian O'Connor in the second half that merited a black but only yielded a yellow.

Their over-zealous approach to the tackle was evident in the number of frees they coughed up in range for O'Connor to score, and two first-half frees were moved up by referee Joe McQuillan because of the level of protestation from Connolly.

These are aspects of the game that Gavin has worked hard on over the last three seasons.

Was it the onset of their first real challenge of the summer that raised their temperature to such a level? Or maybe it was the early departure of O'Carroll in such circumstances.


They can reference free-counts going against them - in the previous match against Fermanagh it was stacked against them 21-4 - but this time it was nowhere near as pronounced, about four that were either marginal or went against them in the second half.

That doesn't include the penalty, which looked a harsh call as Colm Boyle appeared to be off his feet when contact was made.

And of course there were two black cards for Macauley and Denis Bastick that Dublin are set to challenge, for offences that could hardly be described as deliberate.

But you can supplant those two for two more that were missed: O'Sullivan on O'Connor and Philly McMahon's obstruction of O'Shea as the Mayo man sought to tackle Connolly.

In the 'collision' that followed McMahon hit the deck theatrically and could easily have picked up a yellow card. You can't imagine Gavin will have reviewed this incident too kindly.

McMahon won't face any retrospective sanction either by the Central Competition Controls Committee for (CCCC) attempted use of the head in an altercation with O'Shea on the basis that it couldn't be conclusively proved.

People can make their own judgements on that and the former head of referees and four-time All-Ireland final referee himself Pat McEnaney did yesterday by franking the CCCC decision not to act. But McMahon can still consider himself fortunate to be free to play on Saturday.

Connolly's late red card came under some provocation but that is no defence and it's a high price to pay if he misses the replay.

Their approach to discipline is something they have to overhaul this week. It's one thing playing with an edge. It's another thing to step over it.

Irish Independent

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