Sunday 25 February 2018

Eoin Liston: There is no point Jason Ryan telling his players they can beat the Dubs

Kildare football manager Jason Ryan addresses his charges
Kildare football manager Jason Ryan addresses his charges
Kildare manager Jason Ryan
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

I'm trying to imagine what I would be doing if I had been in Jason Ryan's shoes for the past few days. His Kildare team have hit the first target they would have set themselves at the start of the summer - beating Laois in the Leinster quarter-final, albeit after a replay.

Now, though, they are facing an entirely different task - a rampant Dublin team in Croke Park. There's no point in Ryan simply telling his players that they're good enough to beat the Dubs, because they'll know that's not true.

He will be telling his team that they have to deliver a performance of real quality to give themselves a chance of winning this game. After that, if Dublin have an off-day, who knows what could happen?

They can't afford to stand off Dublin or show them too much respect. They have to make sure that they execute their own skills perfectly under pressure and they have to force mistakes out of the Dubs.

Kildare will have looked at where and why Dublin have struggled in the past. They struggle when they don't win a large majority of their own kick-outs, so pressure has to be applied on Stephen Cluxton's restarts from the get-go.

Dublin can be suspect to the high diagonal ball into a big full-forward, and Kildare have 6ft 4ins Padraig Fogarty on the edge of the square so that has to be an option they exploit.

Stephen Cluxton
Stephen Cluxton

The Dublin defence can be breached with runners coming off the ball-carriers' left and right shoulders, and the corner-backs can be suspect when they are isolated one-on-one. These are two more areas that Kildare are going to have to work on.

The game has to be broken down into quarters. Kildare have to deal with the opening 17 minutes first to make sure they are really in the contest.

They have to be completely focused on the plan and on their defensive structures. Dublin are a great team once they get in front - it's easy to move 13 points clear when you're already cruising at 12 ahead. Ryan has to make sure that his team are ready from throw-in to make Dublin work for everything.

They have to put in the tackles and make Dublin make passes rather than allow them to run straight through them because it's when teams are forced to pass that they turn the ball over.

On average, Dublin have 54 attacks a game under Jim Gavin and manage 45 scoring chances from that - that's an 83pc conversion of attacks to shots.

They have an average of 24.3 scores per game and that works out at a 54pc success rate from chances created.

How do you counteract that? You have to make Dublin shoot from positions they're not comfortable in and put pressure on their shooters.

Dublin had 22 kick-outs against Donegal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final; they won 19 of them and still lost. That should tell Kildare's players not to panic if they are having trouble on Cluxton's kick-outs. They'll be saying, 'If we don't win it straight away, get numbers back and form our defensive structures'.

Dublin were put under pressure by Donegal and questions were asked of them. They weren't able to answer those questions, and Kildare have to ask them again.

Jim Gavin's record as Dublin manager has been outstanding since he took over from Pat Gilroy (Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)
Jim Gavin's record as Dublin manager has been outstanding since he took over from Pat Gilroy (Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE)

Ryan has been in the job since before the start of the 2014 season so by now he should have his defensive system in place.

Players like game plans and structures. They want to be comfortable in them and have belief in them; this gives them confidence.

I'm sure in training the forwards will have been playing against seven, eight, nine or even ten backs to get used to the pressure they will come up against.

When I was coaching I used to play 7-2-5 with one extra defender. You can rotate that so it's different players getting back every ten minutes to make sure that no-one is having to do too much work. I can see Kildare going one further and fielding 8-2-4.

And there's no point in just getting back and marking space - you have to make yourself useful and make Dublin pass the ball, make them move laterally and make them make errors.

Dublin made mistakes against Donegal last year. The manager decided that they were just going to keep going for it and that it would eventually be good enough. It wasn't, of course.

So since then they have refined their game-plan and introduced a far more defensive element.

They've also come up against the likes of Derry in the League, which will help them overcome ultra-defensive strategies.

I can't see Kildare winning, but if they have the right attitude and the right game-plan they will give themselves a chance.

Irish Independent

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