Sunday 18 March 2018

Kevin McStay: Dublin are better than 2014 version and that is saying something

Read Kevin McStay in The Herald each Wednesday

Dublin players stand for a minute applause before the start of the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin
Dublin players stand for a minute applause before the start of the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin

Kevin McStay

DUBLIN hockeyed Kildare in the curtain-closer and there was only mild surprise the gap went out to 19 points. Not from the Dublin footballers or management you understand - this is what they routinely do to opponents in their province.

They remind me of the great Clann na Gael club team in Roscommon when they were in their pomp.They consistently beat all rivals by as much as they could to keep them as far down as possible and never allow a hint of rebellion.

But more importantly, they psychologically killed teams for the remainder of that season and the seasons beyond.

But most things change if not end, and time passes. In the case of Dublin however, it is hard to see any changing of the guard within Leinster any day soon.

It is going to take a Jim McGuinness type appointment in Kildare, Laois or Meath to change things in the east. This is not to point a finger at their current managements and players.

Not at all - they are facing one of the finest teams ever produced in the capital but the approach of the underdogs will require a paradigm shift if not a new one altogether.

And in referencing Jim Gavin's squad as one of the best in the modern game, it is important to acknowledge the reason for much of their success: similar to Donegal and Kerry, the team is populated with some supreme footballers

Players like Diarmuid Connolly, Stephen Cluxton, Bernard Brogan, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Flynn are simply top rate players and the rest of their teammates in Jim Gavin's side are not far behind.

That is how good they are. Speed, power, fitness, attitude and edge are everywhere to be seen and all of those attributes are then trumped by very high skill levels. Previously, I would have wondered about their finesse around the goal when trying to execute the majors that seem to bring this team to life.

Too often, and generally under no real pressure, they displayed a lack of composure and selfishness which one does not associate with the top teams.

On the best teams the best placed man always gets the ball because he is ….. the best placed man.

28 June 2015; Padraig O'Neill, Kildare, in action against Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin

Dublin were superb once they entered the large rectangle last Sunday afternoon in Croke Park.

The finishing of goal chances by Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and Dean Rock were excellent but look very closely at the build-ups: Philly McMahon's superb foot pass to his Ballymun Kickhams' clubmate Rock to shift a whole defence to the right; the inter-passing at speed, involving the Brogan brothers, before Rock was taken down for the penalty; McCaffrey flying in from the wing and trying to execute an overlap that eventually ended in a goal; and then Brogan's goal as a result of a perfectly played three-on-two with substitute Paddy Andrews the supplier.

Dublin are better than last year and that is saying something.

Yes, Donegal caught them in last September's All-Ireland semi-final but I can argue long and well that if Dublin's early goal chances had been converted the shock result would not have materialised.

That's why I watched so carefully every time they closed in on the target against a hapless Kildare in search of goals last weekend.

Dublin are sharpening their claws. Teams had best stay out of their reach.


Westmeath's miracle comeback shows the central importance of provincial structure

THEY say what is rare is wonderful and for most cases that is true.

However, the adage points to having at least experienced some event previously. What must it be like to be part of something historic, something experienced by a county for the first time ever?

We got a glimpse of what is involved last Sunday when Westmeath outfought and ultimately outscored their great neighbours to the east and in beating the Royals by four points recorded a maiden championship victory.

I was there in 2004 when they actually won the Leinster - being co-commentator on a day when history is made is pretty exciting too!

The scenes around Croke Park last Sunday, in the minutes after the final whistle, were simply marvellous to be behold and confirmed for me the absolute importance of the provincial championship.

It underlined, once again, that neighbourly rivalries are the very lifeblood of the summer game.

In beating Meath, the underdogs played some terrific football.

And it must be said that Meath themselves were outstanding in many facets of the game during a blistering opening first half performance from them.

At half-time we retreated to the Press and Media Centre to avail of a cup of tea and sandwich and the truth is we were slow to return to our seats for the restart. Leading by eight points Meath quickly stretched it to ten but stayed steady and faced home, with 20 minutes left on the clock, with a nine-point cushion. The game was over. Surely?

I know all this fine detail because we watched it from the comfort of the Press Centre, with our cup of tea and a large television screen and only ventured back out when the raised noise level of the Westmeath fans signalled their team was beginning to stir.

It was a fantastic finish, plenty of terrific football and in the end you all agree the best team won and the right result was registered. Finally.

On the journey back west, we came off the motorway at Kinnegad to have a bite to eat but in truth, to witness the elation, joy and happiness of a locality that at long last had something to boast about to their neighbours.

Our resting station was Joe Bracken's public bar, a local HQ of GAA affairs and it was jammed with fans heading home from the game with no intention whatsoever, of ever getting to their own home! No, this was a time to be among their own and they were lapping up the win.

We sneaked out around 8pm but it was obvious Joe and his team might have to wait until 8am to call some sort of a halt.

But that too was only going to be a brief timeout, just to avail of a little shuteye, a shower and change of clothes and return to read the newspaper headlines and view the game once more. The joys of the championship.

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