Sunday 25 February 2018

Dubs' high-tech operation on scale no one can match

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

So, once again Dublin, after appearing to be out of sorts, blow a team out of the water in the second half. It's easy to point to their bench and the strength of the players they have to introduce, but I think there is another element to it.

The back-room team is now so sophisticated and high tech that with the analysis of both individual players and various elements of any particular match, they can immediately pinpoint a problem area and address it.

This is not a new thing in the GAA, as everyone knows, but from talking to a few well-placed people, Dublin have brought this to a different level.

The entire operation is so impressive. Now, in no way am I dismissing the tactical nous of Jim Gavin or, indeed, the talent he has at his disposal, but they have taken their game to such consistent brilliance that the bar is now higher than it ever was.

Laois did all in their power to stop the juggernaut. They fought like dogs, pressurised kickers and used the ball extremely well, but only for as long as they could.


It took such a monumental effort to get to the second half in a healthy position that tiredness was always going to be key.

As the game wore on, the crisp interchanges and inch-perfect passing became ragged.

Once this happened, Dublin steamrolled them. Such is the gulf in the quality of the teams, Dublin were poor by their own standards in the first half, Laois were superb, yet the former could have scored at least three goals.

They have so much pace, power and raw ability that even when playing below themselves they will create goal chances.

But there's plenty for Laois to build on. They have a number of fine footballers and once Tomas ó Flatharta gets another winter with them under his belt, they can take it on to a new level.

I have spoken of my belief that Mayo will be in another All-Ireland final come September, and while I won't waver from that just yet, one would have to be worried by their display at Hyde Park. It's not that they barely came through that would concern James Horan, but the manner of the performance, particularly in the first half. John Evans had Roscommon well drilled, as was always going to be the case, but they still didn't play particularly well themselves.

Mayo just looked clueless in trying to break them down. A better team would have picked them off and they will face far more sophisticated systems than what was put before them yesterday.

Credit to Mayo, they did turn Roscommon over a huge amount, but they also coughed up cheap possession themselves.

Evans will be disappointed not to have won because they had the game right where they wanted it with five minutes to go. A bit of indiscipline cost them and, again, the better teams won't give Mayo a way out.

Andy Moran was crucial, standing up and showing leadership again when other big names were missing. Seamus O'Shea also kicked a brilliant point, while, as always, Cillian O'Connor was nerveless from dead balls.

There is the argument that Mayo peaked too soon last summer, so maybe they are taking a slightly different approach. But the basic errors and poor shooting are not part of the plan and Horan will be all too aware of that.

I wondered had Jason Ryan taken Kildare on a level since Kieran McGeeney's departure and up until yesterday I didn't think he had. But to their credit, they were very good.

Louth were poor, but that won't matter to Ryan. It was a fine victory in Croke Park in a championship game and no matter the opposition, 1-22 is mightily impressive scoring. They will be flying now and the Leinster semi-final can't come quickly enough.

It's a different ball game for Jack Sheedy's Longford. They will feel they left another big game behind them on Saturday.

Against Wexford, they blew a number of glorious chances to finally make a breakthrough. It will take a lot for Sheedy to lift these players once again and take them through the qualifiers.

Cavan will also be knocked back after their defeat to Armagh. Breffni football has been riding the crest of a wave and there was real ambition in the county for a shot at an Ulster title. But with Kieran McGeeney back, Armagh were always capable of a big performance and they produced just that.

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