Saturday 24 August 2019

Joe Brolly: 'What's not to like about Dublin's fearless ferocity?'

Five-star champions show no mercy to resurgent Rebels

Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates scoring a goal in his side’s impressive Super 8 victory in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates scoring a goal in his side’s impressive Super 8 victory in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly

Liam Brady said on RTÉ Radio One yesterday that when they reached half-time against the great Brazil team of 1982 only 1-0 behind the Irish team should have gone on a lap of honour. At half-time in Croke Park last night, Cork must have felt like doing something similar.

They had played very well in the first half yet reached the break 2-9 to 0-9 behind. It could have been worse, save for an extraordinary piece of refereeing by David Gough. I was at the Pride celebration in Dublin with David a fortnight ago. He is not only a role model for the gay community but also for the refereeing community.

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In the third minute, he awarded Con O'Callaghan a penalty, but just to be sure, he checked with his umpires. They had not tried to attract his attention. David simply wanted to be sure. Having spoken to them, he reversed the decision and gave a throw ball, which Cork won. The sort of classic, humble officiating that makes him our best referee.

Cork's reprieve was short-lived.

They didn't do very much wrong. Their first-half kick-outs were over 90 per cent accurate. They tackled well. They scored well. Yet they were six behind at the break. This was as a result of Dublin's incredible efficiency. In that first half, they registered 2-9 from play from a possible 2-10. By the final whistle, they had managed 5-13 from play from a possible 6-16.

This sort of efficiency has never been seen in the history of Gaelic football. They are all quarterbacks, their entire haul of 5-13 from play coming from inside the 30-metre zone. Not a single shot was attempted by them from beyond 30 metres, which is a mark of their unrivalled chemistry.

Cork, meanwhile, took 17 shots from outside the 30-metre zone. Dublin's trick is to delay the pass, waiting a second until the defender has been tricked before gently transferring it into the hands of a team-mate who is suddenly free, or has ghosted into space unseen.

Their third goal was a masterpiece. Con O'Callaghan with his head up like Peyton Manning, twisting, turning, side-stepping, wrong-footing three defenders before gently floating a reverse handpass to Niall Scully, who performed the Bernie Flynn in a way that would no doubt meet the approval of the Meath maestro.

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The Bernie Flynn - for younger readers - is performed in the following way: The attacker takes possession on either the left- or right-hand side of the goal close to the square. If on the right, he dummies to his left, dropping the left shoulder and creating the pretence he is about to shoot with his left to the goalie's right-hand side. Instead, he retains possession, and shoots to the net at the near post with the right foot. Niall Scully will in due course receive a small statuette of Bernie in the post from the Bernie Flynn Appreciation Society.

If Barcelona had conjured that third goal, it would have a billion hits on YouTube, all dummies, and pretence, and support play until the bewildered Cork defence were scratching their heads and their 'keeper was retrieving the ball from the net.

Ciarán Whelan was with me in the RTÉ studio and, to be fair to him, he isn't a natural endorphin producer. He thought the Dubs were not that good and that Jim Gavin would be livid at their performance.

Note to Ciarán: THEY WON BY 13 POINTS. THEY SCORED 5-18. If any other team had put on this display, we would have been saying, 'The Dubs have a serious competitor for the throne'.

What's not to like? Their supreme discipline in the tackle. Their joyous pursuit of scores. Their total unselfishness. The way they express themselves without fear. Their courage, with each player happily putting his body on the line. Witness Michael Darragh Macauley scampering up and down the field like an 18-year-old, diving and reaching and tackling and bursting through tackles until his lungs must have been bursting.

Cork played very well indeed and although they were crushed in the end, it was not a humiliation. There was nothing abject about their performance and they will have learned a lot from being close up to the Dubs. The difference between Dublin and the rest lies in what they do with their possessions. This extreme efficiency has never been seen before in the game and their opponents must feel a sense of hopelessness that they will ever get to that level.

They are not in the habit of freezing against underdogs, or against anyone for that matter, and Cork duly experienced that pitiless pride that they take in their work.

For the record, Brazil went on to beat Ireland in that game by seven goals to nil. For Cork yesterday, a half-time lap of honour mightn't have been a bad idea.

Yesterday's Super 8 Results: Dublin 5-18 Cork 1-17; Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-13

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