Thursday 22 March 2018

Hunger should prove the vital ingredient in Croke Park feast

Dublin need a league title more than Cork do and that will swing it for them, says Páidí ó Sé

Paidi O Se

At the start of the year Dublin set out their stall. They made it clear from the get-go that they wanted to be exactly where they are today. And it's a not a bad place to be -- a league final in their back yard against the All-Ireland champions.

However, now that they are there, it's imperative that they win because losing could do a lot of irreparable damage and they won't want that with the championship looming.

One of the things I've noticed about Dublin is their porous defence: they are racking up scores at one end of the field but negating their work by allowing their opposition to retaliate at the other end. There is no question that their ability to go forward aggressively is a great asset but if they can't protect their own patch, they are wasting their time.

Against Kerry back in February, they scored a great goal but leaked one within a matter of moments, and against Mayo they let a sizeable, well-earned lead slip and were lucky to win that game.

Tyrone, on the other hand, have the skill perfected. While their backs are capable of getting forward and scoring, they are not losing out at the other end as a result. Laois, who are in the Division 2 final, have also adopted this style, and operate it successfully.

Darren Strong is one of the top three scorers on the team; he has racked up 12 points from wing-back but his team-mates are not getting caught out because of his attacking play. Dublin need to tweak this element of their game to use it to their best possible advantage. They seem to be learning from past mistakes though so I'm sure Pat Gilroy will have worked on this.

They have definitely righted their tendency to use a one-man full-forward line. Last year, they were very much depending on Bernard Brogan to get most of their scores. And while it worked to a certain extent they ultimately over-used him. This year, with the likes of Diarmuid Connolly and Mossy Quinn stepping up to the plate in the league, they are no longer dependent on Brogan to do all the finishing work.

Before I managed Westmeath, their game plan revolved around Dessie Dolan. I was very anxious to change it because by opening it up and getting the ball into other players you are actually taking the shackles off the player and you can get way more out of him.

Mayo's Ciarán McDonald was in the same situation. Every time the other forwards got the ball they looked up to see where McDonald was and they just became easy to defend against. The Dubs seem to have knocked this habit on the head and they will need to keep mixing it up.

I'm not so sure where Cork stand at the moment. I spoke to a man from Cork last week and he reckons that they won't get the

influx of quality under 21 players that has been predicted.

Aidan Walsh and Ciarán Sheehan aside, he reckons Cork will be lucky if two others break onto the scene. They totally took their eye off the ball against Galway in the All-Ireland under 21 semi-final and it seems as though they were blown out of proportion a bit. They were not as good as the scoreline against Kerry suggested.

Today Cork will have to do without Walsh at midfield. He is a massive loss but the panel is so strong they have veteran Nicholas Murphy at the ready to stand in. They will be boosted by the fitness of Sheehan and Donncha O'Connor but they have to do without suspended Eoin Cadogan. Although Conor Counihan put a lot of value on winning the league last year, I think when it comes down to it Dublin will want it more this time.

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