Wednesday 23 October 2019

Michael Verney: 'Dubs display their array of tricks on way to greatness'

Monday Breakdown

1: Dublin have Kerry stretched with four of their forwards adopting a set position towards the pitch’s perimeters in a pre-planned move to leave a yawning gap in the middle of the Kerry half as Niall Scully and Ciarán Kilkenny move towards a potential break to claim possession from the throw-in. Kerry’s lack of defensive shape is in contrast to Dublin’s at the other end
1: Dublin have Kerry stretched with four of their forwards adopting a set position towards the pitch’s perimeters in a pre-planned move to leave a yawning gap in the middle of the Kerry half as Niall Scully and Ciarán Kilkenny move towards a potential break to claim possession from the throw-in. Kerry’s lack of defensive shape is in contrast to Dublin’s at the other end
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Football used to be a simple game revolving around the basic principles of catching and kicking but Dublin have taken it to a completely different level by innovating and employing strategies from other sports in a way few could have ever envisaged.

The completion of five in a row is testament to their ability to continuously adapt and at no stage in Jim Gavin's reign have they allowed themselves to become in any way predictable, as evidenced last Saturday night.

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2: With Jack Barry occupying both Brian Howard and Brian Fenton, David Moran is afforded the chance to jump uncontested for the throw-in. However, rather than catch or knock the ball back to his own side, he opts to punch it forward
2: With Jack Barry occupying both Brian Howard and Brian Fenton, David Moran is afforded the chance to jump uncontested for the throw-in. However, rather than catch or knock the ball back to his own side, he opts to punch it forward

Every game starts with a throw-in but no team has thought forensically about what that entails and the opportunities it presents. The Dubs won three of the four throw-ins over the two games yielding a return of 1-2 from such a simple facet of the game.

Eoin Murchan's stunning goal nine seconds into the second half is a perfect example. On the face of it, he collects the breaking ball and bursts through Kerry's defence before firing to the net but there are so many other subtle things being done by those around him to allow that to happen.

Gavin spoke after about his satisfaction that a pre-rehearsed move had bore fruit and these things don't happen by accident, it's as a result of creative thinking and an insatiable thirst to master one's craft.

When Stephen Cluxton began working with Gary Matthews in 2006, the idea of a short kick-out was an alien concept in football but the Dublin goalkeeper has revolutionised the game with his ability to retain possession from restarts.

3: Eoin Murchan attacks the breaking ball at pace and collects ahead of Diarmuid O’Connor. O’Connor chases back but Fenton cleverly stands his ground and O’Connor has nowhere to go as Murchan bursts through the gap which has been created by a clever decoy run from Ciarán Kilkenny
3: Eoin Murchan attacks the breaking ball at pace and collects ahead of Diarmuid O’Connor. O’Connor chases back but Fenton cleverly stands his ground and O’Connor has nowhere to go as Murchan bursts through the gap which has been created by a clever decoy run from Ciarán Kilkenny

While Kerry got some joy in the drawn game and mildly ruffled his feathers with their aggressive 4-4-4 kick-out press - a basketball term unheard of in GAA terms until the Dubs refined it - his ability to arrow long deliveries over the top yielded 1-2 and forced them to abandon that tactic the second time around.

With no Plan B in place, Dublin were gifted possession 23 out of the 25 times from which Cluxton put the ball down and it allowed them to dictate affairs and play the game on their own terms. They essentially played basketball without the shot clock.

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Therein lies another tactical evolution. With teams dropping players back defending the 'D' and trying to limit the likes of Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion, Dublin can be patient in their build-up and hold possession until the gap arises. There is never any need for panic and their street smarts are unparalleled. With three minutes of first-half injury-time played and a free won 65 metres out from Kerry's goal, Mick Fitzsimons makes the sign of an 'X' over his head to his forward line.

He makes a similar gesture to Brian Fenton before he kicks the free, signalling that time is up and a risk-free chance to get a score with no time for a counter-attack is on as Fenton launches the ball to the square.

4: Dublin’s inside forwards have kept their shape while Diarmuid Connolly hugs the touchline to help draw another defender away from the middle. Murchan has open ground in front of him and Moran is the only player close to him as he desperately tries to get back. Kerry’s inside defenders are preoccupied with marking their own men and don’t sense the danger which presents itself with Murchan bearing down on goal. Tom O’Sullivan tries to block a run from Con O’Callaghan while Tadhg Morley eventually leaves Paul Mannion to try cover the middle
4: Dublin’s inside forwards have kept their shape while Diarmuid Connolly hugs the touchline to help draw another defender away from the middle. Murchan has open ground in front of him and Moran is the only player close to him as he desperately tries to get back. Kerry’s inside defenders are preoccupied with marking their own men and don’t sense the danger which presents itself with Murchan bearing down on goal. Tom O’Sullivan tries to block a run from Con O’Callaghan while Tadhg Morley eventually leaves Paul Mannion to try cover the middle

No score comes from it and ten seconds later they are jogging in at half-time, nothing ventured nothing gained but always thinking differently. The Kerry response to Murchan's goal was emphatic and when Seán O'Shea pointed at 44:30, they only trailed by one, 1-11 to 0-13.

Only two points would follow in the closing 32 minutes, however, and while there are no possession charts available to show who held the ball and for how long, the Dubs virtually owned the O'Neills and sucked the energy and resolve out of Kerry.

The ball was recycled for nearly three minutes before Mannion's 51st-minute point, while Cluxton smothered Stephen O'Brien's goal attempt three minutes later with a save which Gavin described as "the result of hundreds of hours" of hard graft.

A minute later Jonny Cooper - relieved of man-marking duties on David Clifford and allowed to bomb forward at every opportunity - puts his hand up in possession to signal another move from a playbook more akin with American football.

5: Moran has the chance to drag down Murchan approaching the 21-yard line but allows him to continue while, to the right, O’Sullivan is still preoccupied with O’Callaghan
5: Moran has the chance to drag down Murchan approaching the 21-yard line but allows him to continue while, to the right, O’Sullivan is still preoccupied with O’Callaghan

He solos down the Hogan Stand side and passes to Mannion, who is afforded the space to shoot after James McCarthy screens (another basketball term) his marker. None of this is a coincidence, it has been brilliantly coached.

A significant Dublin lead would never be pegged back and they regularly played 'keep ball' en route to rewriting history. One of the best compliments that they can be paid is that they continue to make a simple game so difficult for others. The chess pieces will change but the Dublin juggernaut rolls on.

6: Murchan races through and after taking roughly ten steps and braces himself to shoot unopposed just eight seconds after the ball is thrown up. A second later the ball is in the right corner of the net and the game has its defining moment, one expertly choreographed on the Dublin training ground
6: Murchan races through and after taking roughly ten steps and braces himself to shoot unopposed just eight seconds after the ball is thrown up. A second later the ball is in the right corner of the net and the game has its defining moment, one expertly choreographed on the Dublin training ground

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