Posted by Ciaran Whelan

Dublin showed they have the characteristics to retain the title but Louth got their tactics completely wrong

2012 Dublin beat Louth

A lot of people were waiting to see how Dublin would perform on Sunday and whether their hunger, desire and attitude would be right. I think, on that basis, Pat Gilroy will be happy with a clinical performance.


They went out with most of the All-Ireland winning team from last year and they were very impressive. Their movement off the ball and their movement of the ball was very good and defensively they were sound. In the mid sector they won about two-thirds of the kick-outs. Up front, they moved the ball quickly and accurately with Alan Brogan dictating the play.


The only disappointment from Gilroy’s perspective is they would have hoped to get more of a game from Louth. They were completely ineffective but, even still, Dublin have shown they have the characteristics required to go on and retain the title. The real tests, though, lie further down the line.


I was surprised at how Louth were set up tactically and how they went about playing the game. Adrian Reid did have a goal chance early on and I think if he had taken that it would have given his team a bit of self confidence and the belief to push forward. However, Stephen Cluxton made a great save and, after that, it took them until well into the second half to register a first score from play and that’s never going to be good enough.


I thought Neil Gallagher’s kick-outs were very poor. He was trying to replicate Cluxton by firing them down the flanks but he was putting too much air on the ball. With Bryan Cullen and Paul Flynn on the wings Dublin savaged them in that area. When they had the ball they attacked down the middle and ran into Dublin’s wall of defence time and time again. That’s the worst thing you can do when you’re up against a team of Dublin’s quality.


Louth also dropped extra men into their defence, but what that meant was Dublin had extra men in their defence because they never push up. They had that spare man in the full-back line and they put up a wall that Louth couldn’t break down. Paddy Keenan and Ronan Carroll are two good midfielders and I was surprised that they didn’t get the ball to them quicker instead of floating balls to the wings.


Tactically Louth were very naive and so the second half ended up being more like a training game. Dublin probably would have benefitted more from an A versus B practice match but, for them, it’s great to get back to Croke Park. It’s such a big advantage for them that they get to play all their games there. On Sunday the nature of their win reminded me of the game against Armagh in the National League. They dominated every sector of that game and Croke Park suits the way they play the game.


The most positive aspect from Dublin’s point of view is that there was a swagger and a confidence about what they did that stems from last year’s win. They are full of self-belief which is something they have often lacked in the past. Certainly, it was something Louth lacked and that has happened to a number of Leinster teams going to Croke Park where deep down they don’t actually believe they can win the game.


You look at Peter Fitzpatrick who had to replace his full-back, centre-back, centre-forward and full-forward. That’s the spine of the team and that speaks a multitude about the team’s lack of a performance. They never got to the pitch of the game and it was over by half-time.


Dublin have so much in their forward line and it naturally happens that teams play negatively against them. Bernard Brogan showed a bit of rustiness and in the last third in the first 20 or 25 minutes that was an aspect of Dublin’s play that was evident. But they have a game under their belt now and, for Brogan, sticking two goals away as well as the points he got from play will give him great confidence.


They move the ball so quickly on the counter attack and their forward play is something they work on and that they’ve improved a lot on and that was very evident on Sunday. They force teams to go overly defensive against them. That plays into Dublin’s hands because they’re able to implement their very tight defensive game. If someone is going to beat them this year they are going to have to be brave and take them on and be confident enough in their six defenders. That’s going to be a big ask though.


You could see the spirit drain from Louth and I wouldn’t read anything into the second half. Louth were gallant enough though and Paddy Keenan and Reid in particular did well. Even when they did win good possession, though, they stuck in high balls with no target man in there. Over all, they got their tactics very wrong and apart from Darren Clarke’s scores there was very little for them to be positive about.


I HAVE TO SAY I’m fed up with this handpass-footpass debate that’s going on at the moment. We have to be realistic. The game has evolved. Defenders are better at keeping things tight so you have to look at keeping possession. The first thing any manager examines is how many times their team has given away possession cheaply. The second aspect is to look at how many times you can turn over the opposition. That’s where the game is at. Players are better conditioned and there is no point in trying to promote foot passing if you want to retain possession.


That’s a facet of the modern game and Wexford implemented their game plan against Longford. They were playing against the breeze in the first half so they were trying to keep the game as tight as possible and kick on in the second half. Having said that, there were times when Jason Ryan’s side should have got the ball inside quicker, especially when the likes of Ciaran Lyng and Redmond Barry are in there.


I thought Adrian Flynn’s performance was absolutely out of this world. If that was Tomás Ó’Sé people wouldn’t stop talking about it. To kick five points is incredible and he deserves immense credit for it. I actually thought it was a very good game of football. It was a real championship game with both teams going toe-to-toe. It went right down to the wire and I thought it was one of the better games this year.


It’s great to see Longford back at Croke Park. They haven’t lost all year and have the momentum behind them now. You cannot beat games so both manages will be delighted to get the extra 70 minutes under the belt.


FERMANAGH couldn’t afford to go down a man, especially with Ryan McCluskey already out. For them to create an upset when you wouldn’t have expected it, it was going to be difficult anyway. James McCartan will be happy to get over the fixture and they are on the right side of the draw now.


Peter Canavan was quietly confident coming into the game but they have to go the qualifier route now. They’ve lost two on the bounce so it will be interesting to see if they can recover from the defeat.

PAUL COGGINS has put in a serious effort for London and they got some reward last year when they beat Fermanagh. It was a slippery game for Leitrim and they would have dreaded being the first Connacht team to get caught out in a number of years but this will set them up nicely now for their semi-final.