Saturday 17 March 2018

Eoin Liston: It's hard to criticise the Dubs... but Brogan needed to play 70 minutes

It's almost impossible to have anything negative to say about Dublin after yesterday. It was the most impressive performance of the year so far and, make no mistake, these boys are the real deal – something we all knew anyway.

But if I was a supporter of the Dubs, one thing would concern me. Bernard Brogan. Or, should I say, the manager's approach with his star player.

Brogan is one of the country's marquee footballers. He would walk on to any team in Ireland and he has proven his class year after year. This summer he has failed to ignite in the way we have become accustomed to. But taking him off is not the answer. I don't care what depth Jim Gavin has at his disposal.

Players, in particular forwards, thrive on confidence. Brogan needed 70 minutes yesterday. His interview in the aftermath was largely positive, but he did make a tongue-in-cheek remark about his inability to get 50 minutes' game time in the current set-up.

This may come back to haunt Gavin. Dublin will need Brogan firing on all cylinders if they are to win an All-Ireland. When the tougher tests come later down the line, he will be the go-to man when scores are hard to come by and games are tight.

If he hasn't been given the opportunity to even finish a match, what condition will he be in mentally? When he is training, will he be able to maintain a top-class attitude, which he undoubtedly has given his success in the game? His work-rate is still very high so I don't see that as an issue.

And, at the end of the day, it was his intervention that was the major turning point against Kildare. With only two points between the teams approaching half-time, Kieran McGeeney would have been getting ready to rally his troops for a second-half assault.

Instead, a brilliant finish by Brogan meant it was five points and the stuffing was knocked out of Kildare. Big players like him decide results. Gavin should perhaps look at the bigger picture in that regard.

The Dubs are an awesome force. The pace of their movement both with and without the ball was incredible. The support play and direct running simply blew Kildare off the park.

The scary thing is they scored 4-16, but they actually created 13 viable goal opportunities. That is just unheard of at this level and is even more unbelievable when one considers the opposition were a team who played in the Division 1 semi-final just two months ago.

Kildare got the start they would have wanted, but even when they were leading by five the warning signs were there. In order to beat this Dublin team, the defensive system needs to be perfect, with the midfielders and half-forwards funnelling back, making things narrow and eating up the space.

Instead, the Lilywhites appeared to be going man-to-man and it seemed every time Dublin ran at them there were problems. Michael Darragh Macauley was immense in midfield while the forwards just pulled Kildare all over the place. Kildare clearly identified that they would need to go long and direct into the full-forward line. But there were two problems with their implementation of this tactic. Firstly, the type of ball was predictable and after some joy at the start, Dublin quickly came to grips with it.

Secondly, the build-up was too slow, meaning that when the long pass was executed, the Dubs had got enough men back to pick up the breaks and start building their own attacks.

The big thing from this game, however, was a similar story to what we have seen already this summer – power, or Kildare's lack of it. Their young players are hugely talented and in many cases they are physically big. But that power to break tackles is just not there yet. Too often they were forced backwards.

As I said before the game, this is a team in transition and, given time, these players will do their county proud in the years to come.

Meath are in a similar bracket. They have qualified for a Leinster final and gained promotion in the league – a productive year so far.

But they too are a level below Dublin and I expect the Leinster final to prove that. Wexford did a lot of things right and in the end it was indiscipline that cost them. Meath scored 0-9 from frees and missed a couple more.

They won't get those opportunities against Dublin, who are likely to cruise to yet another Leinster title.

Irish Independent

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