Posted by Ciarán Whelan
Monday 2 July 2012
I think Pat Gilroy will see Dublin’s win over Wexford two ways. He certainly won’t be happy with aspects of the performance. There were several elements that were missing today. They lacked intensity in the tackle and they struggled in the forward line at times.
I think, though, when he reflects on it going forward in terms of the hype and expectation on the team he will be happy enough. He has been left with a lot to work on and he’ll express his views very directly to the players. They have to work hard on their attitude and the application of their game plan.
I’d give great credit to Wexford. They’ve run Dublin close over the last few years and maybe if they were ever to beat them it was Sunday. They just didn’t get the scores when they needed them in the last 15 minutes. They had the chances to finish off Dublin but they just didn’t take them.
They have had some fantastic footballers over the years. Redmond Barry has been brilliant for them and Adrian Flynn was excellent again, kicking two great scores. But it’s another near miss and they will be gutted.
In the first half, Wexford isolated the Dublin full-back line by playing just two men pushed high up the pitch. It worked very effectively for the first 10 or 15 minutes as Dublin stood off their men. Barry finished his goal very well and Ben Brosnan caused all sorts of problems around the fringes and fired over some excellent scores.
I expected Dublin to improve in the second half but they didn’t until Diarmuid Connolly was sent off for a really stupid incident. After that they needed leaders to stand up and they had that throughout the team. I thought Kevin McManamon was excellent while Alan Brogan and Paul Flynn covered every inch of Croke Park. Michael Dara Macauley also made a big difference when he came on while Kevin Nolan got forward to kick a couple of vital scores.
After a shaky start Cian O’Sullivan settled in well and although their full-back line was tighter in the second half they won’t be happy with their shape. They struggled off their own kick-out at times and, in some ways, there was too much read into the victory over Louth. That match was over after 15 minutes and Dublin were able to move the ball around without being under too much pressure.
This will bring them back down to earth and so will looking around the country this weekend at performances such as Donegal’s in the Ulster semi-final. It can only be a good thing for them to be in a Leinster final having won ugly.
On the sending off, you could see Dublin realised they were in a game once Connolly got the line. Their forwards were living off scraps and were taking bad options so they had to up the ante. As well as the chances missed in the first half, Bryan Cullen and Eoghan O’Gara got through and made wrong decisions in the second.
Wexford had more of the possession as well as the extra man but they just didn’t execute their finishes. That has been their Achilles heel against Dublin and they just don’t seem to be able to close out games against them. A lot of people think that if Matty Forde had been there it would have made a difference. They need that one extra quality forward with the composure to take the chances at critical times.
SEAMUS MCENANEY WON’T want his team to fall into a false sense of security because Dublin are a better team than they showed on Sunday. I have to say I expected a whole lot more of Kildare. I knew Meath would put up a fight as they always do but Kildare imploded.
The game plan in their forward line was atrocious. They had no cohesion, their movement was terrible and they tried to put high balls in on top of Tomás O’Connor but it didn’t work. They were one-dimensional and their shot options amounted to nothing more than Hail Marys.
Still, a lot of the credit has to go to Meath and how they were set up defensively. For a very young back line they played very well and didn’t let Kildare work it through the middle. It wasn’t a blanket defence but they did work very hard to force the opposition into taking bad shot options.
I though Donnacha Tobin, Bryan Menton and Donal Keogan had great games and, with these young guys coming through, I’m reminded of the Meath team of 1996. They came in and delivered for Banty. And you have to acknowledge the manager’s guts. He put it up to the county board and he got his reward. Graham Reilly and Brian Farrell were also instrumental for Meath along with Joe Sheridan.
You’d have to wonder now where Kildare go from here. That will drain the life out of them. They got a lot of attention over the Seanie Johnston affair and, with this being Kieran McGeeney’s fifth year in charge, it was now or never for them. Their goal was to win a Leinster championship and they might get a run in the qualifiers but it’s going to be difficult for McGeeney to pick them up.
I was impressed with them in the league but the big doubt was they hadn’t beaten anyone of any significance. The closest they have come to taking a big scalp was against Dublin last year. Against Offaly their use of the ball was very good but Meath totally snuffed them out and Conor Gillespie had a massive game, not only in winning first-phase possession but also in dropping back to cut off the supply to O’Connor.
Kildare, though, had no Plan B. I was watching from the Canal End and you could see that they didn’t have the same numbers in attack or in defence. They looked flat and heavy-legged and they didn’t have that support of the guy on the shoulder to break the gain line. They struggled in every aspect of the game and a lot of the old habits came back to haunt them.
THIS WEEKEND WAS great in terms of GAA. I feel, though, that the shop window is too small. You had 22 teams playing across the weekend and there was great excitement. We’ve had red cards, penalties and surprises. There was a novelty factor about some of the fixtures and it has always been my preference for a change of format so we have more weekends like this where everyone is playing and the fixtures are different. It creates a buzz with the unpredictability of the outcomes and I feel the championship really only kicks off when the qualifiers start.
In terms of the games themselves, it was never going to be easy for Armagh to go to Roscommon. The Ulster side have struggled all year and particularly when they go on the road. Roscommon have had a long lay-off after their Connacht defeat and even though it wasn’t exactly a shock I think a lot of people would have expected a better performance from Armagh.
Cavan, meanwhile, have a good young side and I was impressed with them in the first 20 or 25 minutes against Donegal. I fancied them to beat Fermanagh and it’s ironic that Johnston’s new side lost while his old team came through Round 1.
Longford are the team of the championship so far and are making huge strides. One of the things to emerge from the weekend is the fact that the Leinster championship is in good health. Wicklow also won whereas in Ulster there are a lot of teams on the slide. Armagh and Derry have their problems while Tyrone are also in decline. But, overall, it was a very positive championship weekend.
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