Sunday 18 August 2019

Disarming Ciarán Archer's attacking threat the key if Cork are to thwart Dublin in U-20 decider

Dublin U-20 v Cork U-20, Live, TG4, 4.0

Ciarán Archer – here on the rampage against Longford – will lead the Dublin attack in today’s EirGrid U-20 FC final
Ciarán Archer – here on the rampage against Longford – will lead the Dublin attack in today’s EirGrid U-20 FC final

Cathal Dennehy

How to solve a problem like Ciarán Archer? That is the crucial question for Cork manager Keith Ricken ahead of today's EirGrid All-Ireland U-20 football final in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.

Throughout the summer, the St Maur's attacker has been a scoring weapon for Dublin that no one has been able to neutralise. He shot 3-8 in their Leinster final win over Laois last month before scoring 2-6 in the Dubs' seven-point win over Galway in the semi-final.

In just four games, he has helped himself to a gluttonous 8-30, out-scoring the combined total of his team-mates by a scarcely credible five points. But for Ricken, becoming paranoid about his potency is a dangerous game to play.

"From what I saw I don't think Ciarán Archer takes the kick-outs, catches the ball and kicks it back to himself, so there's a very, very good team around him giving him a good supply of ball," he said.

"I look at Brian O'Leary, Niall O'Leary, Sean Lambe and Eoin O'Dea, Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne: Dublin are producing footballers left, right and centre. Cork people a few weeks ago were talking about TJ Reid and who was going to mark him, but Kilkenny brought six or seven others to worry about, so each game takes on a life of its own."

All the same, Ricken has seen Archer's performances and been as impressed as everyone else.

"He's a lovely footballer to watch, but I'm sure he'll agree himself he's the guy that stamps the box, the end product."

Cork showed impressive resilience to overturn a seven-point deficit against Tyrone in last weekend's semi-final, edging to victory by two points in O'Connor Park.

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Dublin manager Tom Gray wasn't willing to think too much about the Rebels until this week, but he's since made up for lost time.

"The TG4 Player has been very active over the last few days," he laughed.

"They've a fantastic style of football, great support lines coming from the back, and a very strong forward line racking up huge scores. It's going to be a huge challenge for us."

Of course, in Archer, the Dubs have a player with the potential to swing the game at a moment's notice.

Gray first came across him about three years ago while working with Dublin's underage squads, a player who was also standing out in soccer at the time and who had trials with English clubs.

His physical gifts had long stood out, but he proved this year to his manager he has an attitude to match, making himself available for every game during the development league as he prepared for his Leaving Cert at St Joseph's in Rush.

"That's a measure of his dedication or madness, I'm not sure which," said Gray.

There is an obvious danger in over-hyping a player so young, and Gray is keen to urge caution.

"Look, he's obviously shot the lights out in terms of scoring this year," he said.

"He's a very rounded individual, very mature in terms of trying to get better as a footballer. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to think a huge hype about any footballer wouldn't affect any young man. I think he's best placed of anybody to deal with it, but by the same token it's not something I, as his manager, should be encouraging."

A call-up from Jim Gavin could well await next year, even though Archer has one more year of eligibility in the U-20 category, but no matter what happens Gray will reflect fondly on his time working with a rising star of the game.

"He has a fantastic interest in getting better as a footballer; very curious, very ambitious, and very determined."

For Dublin, the key will be to provide the best service for Archer's skills to flourish. For Cork, it will be about trying to disarm the big threat without leaving themselves open to attack from every other angle.

Dublin - D O'Hanlon; D Maher, D Newcombe, E O'Dea; K Kennedy, N Matthews, S Lambe; P Ó Cofaigh Byrne, D Ryan; N O'Leary, K Lynch Bissett, J Doran; B O'Leary, C Archer, R McGarry.

Cork - J O' Keeffe; M Mahoney, M Shanley, P Ring; G O'Donovan, S Meehan, P O' Driscoll; B Hartnett, D O'Connell; C Barrett, B Murphy, C O'Callaghan; M Cronin, C O'Mahony, D Gore.

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