Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ryan McMenamin: Defensive frailties will come back to haunt Mourne

Down’s Niall Madine holds off Aidan McAlynn
Down’s Niall Madine holds off Aidan McAlynn

Ryan McMenamin

I know that people will be saying that the game at Celtic Park was a cracking encounter, but while there was good football played by both sides, at times it was more like league football.

It lacked the intensity that you associate with championship football, especially here in Ulster. There was none of the hard hitting and tackling that we saw in Ballybofey a week earlier and that disappointed me as a defender.

Down played Peter Turley as a sweeper in the first half and to be honest he looked totally lost. Eoin Bradley took the Down defence to the cleaners in that period, despite the fact that there were two and sometimes three players trying to tackle him.

His goal opportunity at the end of the first half was a major turning point in the game because had he scored that, it would have killed Down off. You have to give Brendan McVeigh credit for the save, although having said that it was at a good height for him.


In championship football you have to be ruthless when goal chances like that present themselves, as Donegal showed against Tyrone, and I felt that failure to score a second goal cost Derry dearly.

In fairness to the Down full-back line, I would blame the players further out the field as there was little or no pressure on the ball coming in and that made it a lot easier for Bradley as he was getting quality service.

Enda Lynn was the link man and he was very effective. Down didn't know what to do with him as he took the game to them.

Ryan Bell is a promising up-and-coming talent for Derry but while he likes to get forward from midfield, he doesn't seem too keen on tracking back and doing the dirty work, and I think that Down knew that.

They exploited that at times through the efforts of Kevin McKernan, Kalum King and Ambrose Rodgers.

McKernan had a superb game throughout and he really came to the fore in the second half when Down needed him.

When Bell got injured Derry had to move him to full-forward and take Bradley out and that reduced their scoring threat greatly. The Down defence got to grips with Bradley and Lynn in the second half and that was a major factor in them winning the game.

When Down got their first goal the Derry full-back line were AWOL and when the Mourne men sensed blood they kicked on from that.

There is no doubt that Down have a good forward line but, like all Down sides, you always feel that you can score plenty at the other end against them and going forward that will be a problem for them.

There is no way that they will get anything like that total against Donegal in the semi-final and if they go in at half-time five points down again it will be game over. There will be no way back for them against a side like Donegal.

Looking at the other games over the weekend you couldn't but be impressed with Dublin. You have to take your hat off to Jim Gavin for the way that he has them playing.

As far as I can see, there is the full-back line and then everybody else on the field can virtually play wherever they want and when that clicks it's very hard to stop. Kerry turned on the style to easily account for Waterford and, while the opposition will get a lot tougher, they are going to be very hard to beat as they have the best forward line that I have seen so far this year.

Irish Independent

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