Wednesday 17 January 2018

Men from west must bring out their trackers and bloodhounds to make Dublin's hunters the hunted

'If Brogan gets any kind of decent ball he will cause havoc'
'If Brogan gets any kind of decent ball he will cause havoc'
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Dublin and Mayo are set to play out another Fall drama in one of the few fields in Ireland dry enough and firm enough to walk in low shoes or high heels.

I have never seen bigger rain drops. Mud is the enemy of football. And when you have to scrub the spuds with a yard brush, the signs aren't great for football pitches.

Croke Park is a miracle field.

As if the rain wasn't bad enough, the cold winds of the week that is brought vests from their summer hibernation in deep-fill wooden drawers. The last days of August are far too early for the cold coming and we have heard harrowing tales from men whose secret stash of purloined All-Ireland money has been discovered in sock drawers by wives and partners in search of woollens.

The Alaskan autumn has taken no prisoners. Already the defensive spikes on the conker shells have become as prickly as a Mickey Harte after-match press conference.

Tonight the harvest moon will fill the sky with the big round face of the hunter's bright light and the hapless hunted will breathe no more the freshening winds of Autumn's first shrill blast.

I'd hate to be a rabbit or a field mouse on nights such as these. The fox and the stoat will be playing at home tonight. While you sleep, countless dramas will be played out in field, ditch and hedgerow.

Bernard Brogan and The Gooch will empathise. Bernard has a bullseye painted on his back around this time of year.

Last Sunday The Gooch was the prey and he woke up with a crowd around him after a high-flying, late tackle from a man swinging off a trapeze. The Gooch is lucky he's not in hospital.

We will return to Dublin and Mayo shortly. But as the topless dancer was wont to say, "there are matters we need to get off our chest."

Kerry will need to play for an hour and a quarter as they did in the last six minutes if we are to win the Sam. Tyrone are a coming team but Canavans and Doohers only come along every 50 or even 100 years. Tyrone, for all their endeavour, couldn't finish.

And yes the Kerry defence were slack in their marking at times but Peter Crowley wasn't. He played Sean Cavanagh out of it.

There seems to be a developing and dangerous partitionist movement in the North. Strange isn't it that some Northern nationalists are claiming there's a dem-and-us and they're all agin us. The referee, Maurice Deegan, was fair. In fact he was sympathetic to Tyrone when they deservedly beat Kerry in the 2008 final.

I would urge Mickey to stop the accusations that his team are victims. The danger is the ploy to get players up for a match spreads into the county psyche. Hey Mickey, we are all the one.

It's All-Ireland endgame time and there's no mercy shown to man nor beast.

Dublin are ruthless but they do play to score more than the other team, unlike some of the more defensive teams who play games to make the opposition score less.

Do you know I often think that when teams put up the wall, they are saying both to themselves and the opposition, "we are not good enough to win this. If we were better footballers we wouldn't be so cautious."

We are now in the middle of the first weekend of the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival. Long ago I saw a man asking a woman to dance.

The lady agreed but only if she could bring her mother on as a sweeper, and the dancing would have to go on behind a row or more of sturdy brothers bullocking the Siege of Ennis.

She never did marry and so far as I know the lady still goes to Lisdoonvarna. Keep an eye out. She's the one nursing the glass of MiWadi, for hours, with her arms folded in case a man gets in a sneaky look at her bosom.

To win you must play to win. Mayo will play more defensively than usual. There isn't much wrong with playing a sweeper in front of or alongside the fullback line. That sort of defensive formation is no worse than getting in a cross dog in case of burglars.

And marking your man is fine too. Trackers and bloodhounds of backs are what's needed.

What I object too is bringing on too many chaperones like Lady Lisdoon'. The only way to beat the Dubs is to take them on and attack.

But Bernard Brogan is in fine form and there's no way the Mayo defence could play him one-on-one. If Brogan gets any kind of decent ball he will cause havoc. But all the Dublin players can score. Even the great Dublin teams of the Seventies hadn't as many scoring forwards.


Dublin play with joy in their hearts. Mayo too have players who are coached in winning games by playing exciting football.

Last year Mayo were desperately unlucky against Kerry. Mayo's two best players banged into each other on that balmy Limerick evening and both were left far short of their best. Mayo need to keep Aidan O' Shea and Cillian O'Connor playing brilliantly if they are to win.

Aidan will play on the edge of the square. He has been roughed up a fair bit this year. Big men find it harder to get frees. We hope Aidan gets his dues.

The Dubs defence will not stop Mayo scoring. The Mayo defence will not stop Dublin scoring.

I'm sorry Mayo, but you're going to need more than just football to win this one. Mayo are badly in need of a little bit of luck. Dublin are very, very good. Yet this is an excellent Mayo team.

Dublin can go very defensive too, when needs be, and they are at their most dangerous when the opposition lose the ball. Keep that ball as close to your belly as possible Mayo when you go into the tackle. Mayo must go marsupial.

That Dublin bench is a potent weapon and in the end the reserve battalions might do in Mayo. Watch out for Alan Brogan when the game breaks up. No man runs more fine lines to create space for his team and there's two points in him.

Most of the football people I speak to are cheering for Mayo. They do appreciate the fact that Dublin play open football and fast football, with plenty of flair. They might well win.

Yet we all feel the plaintive longing of Mayo, the team of the people. The team that has never given up. You'd never know. Maybe on Sunday night the fox and the ferret will cry tears of joy in Erris and Achill.

For Mayo to win, the hunted must become the hunter.

Irish Independent

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