Posted by Ciarán Whelan
Monday 23 July 2012
Any day that Dublin beat Meath in a Leinster final is a good day from a Dublin perspective. But in terms of the quality of the game it was disappointing.
It was sloppy in parts and there was a lot of bad play from both sides. Dublin should have won the game more convincingly. Their best period was probably in the first 15 minutes when they were crisp in their passing and dominant in the middle of the field.
Denis Bastick had a very good game and Dublin were in cruise control but then got careless with their play. The two goals they scored came against the run of play but were well taken by Bastick and Bernard Brogan. That gave them the platform going into the break.
Then in the second half they were 10 points up but let Meath come back to within three points and that was indicative of a flat performance overall. I don’t think Meath are a great side. Certainly there are more talented sides left in the championship.
They had a few good performances. Graham Reilly ploughed a lone furrow up front and outside of that I thought Donal Keogan had a very good game.
On the other side I thought that Dublin looked shapeless in attack at times and obviously the injury to Alan Brogan was always going to be a big loss. Eoghan O’Gara did bring balance to the forward line when he came on. He kept it simple, showed well for the ball and kicked a couple of nice scores. He was Dublin’s best forward on the day.
Barry Cahill also steadied things in the middle when Dublin needed it but in terms of intensity and bite they weren’t at it. Again they got out a jail against a progressive Meath side and they are probably better off winning by a lesser margin as it leaves them plenty of food for thought. At the end of the day, though, they’ve won another Leinster title but they’ve a lot of work to do before the quarter-final.
DONEGAL ARE STILL very much on an upward curve and when you look at them they remind you of where Dublin were last year or where Cork were the year before.
If they had been in Croke Park on Sunday Dublin would have been in trouble. That’s the benchmark Dublin will have to set for themselves from now on and they’re lucky they can’t meet Donegal until a potential All-Ireland final.
Donegal are up there in the top two or three at the moment and are going to be a very difficult side to beat. I didn’t fancy Down to get anywhere near them, especially with the way they play. When you play Donegal you’re forced to change your style, your Plan A that players are more comfortable with.
Down had to try something different but it didn’t work. Donegal are a formidable team and no one will want to meet them in Croke Park.
The two teams of the weekend were Jimmy McGuinness’s side and Kerry. Jack O’Connor’s charges bounced back from a poor performance against Westmeath and now meet Clare. I wouldn’t be expecting a massive performance from them but they’ve opened up a pathway back to Croke Park for themselves and they’ll be dangerous opposition for anybody in that familiar environment.
I HAVE TO say I didn’t agree at all with what Joe Brolly said about Kerry. They’ve been one of the best sides in the country over the last decade and certainly the best side I’ve ever played against.
It’s very easy to look back over the last 10 years, pick out individual games and then form these theories about a side. I certainly wouldn’t agree with any of Joe’s comments about the Kerry players. Without a doubt, Colm Cooper is one of the best footballers of his generation so I think Joe was off the mark there.
Sometimes when people analyse sport they remember five or six things about a game but leave out the overall context. It’s easy to pick out incidents in games and conveniently forget others just so to make it fit in with your argument.
I don’t think Kerry are chokers at all. Tyrone were a great team, as were Armagh. But you could take any team over the last 10 years and break them down to form opinions on them. You could look at Tyrone, for example, in the years they failed to defend their All-Ireland titles and say it shows they weren’t a great team, which we know isn’t true.
The fact is Kerry were in those finals in the three years after Tyrone’s victories. There were plenty of other teams that Tyrone didn’t perform well against and plenty of their players who didn’t play well against certain teams. But you don’t get personal about top players. It wasn’t the right thing to do.
Having said that, if the Kerry players got wind of it before Saturday it might have given them that extra spark and motivation. Everyone, including the fans, was up for it. And it will just add to their agenda so Joe’s comments will be used by Jack O’Connor to spur his side.
Joe does say things tongue-in-cheek. That’s the way he always goes about things and when he reflects on what he said he might think it wasn’t the best angle to take.
When it came down to it on Saturday night, though, Kerry won because they had the better players and the more talented players. They have struggled to get up for games against the so-called weaker teams in recent weeks but you could see from the off against Tyrone that they were out to prove a lot of people wrong.
And when a team has that collective focus, especially a team as talented as Kerrys, it’s difficult to stop them. From the off they were up for it and it’s a massive turning point for them. They blew us out of the water in 2009 but this was an even more complete performance.
If you go through the team you can pick out a number of fantastic performances. Their full-back line was solid as a rock and Marc Ó’Sé and Aidan O’Mahony were immense. On the other hand, I thought that Tyrone were very poor and the approach they had was all wrong.
They tried to slow down the game, they were cynical and they got in the faces of the Kerry players. But it only worked to inspire Kerry. They met fire with fire and in the last 10 or 15 minutes they were doing to Tyrone what Tyrone had been doing to them in the first part of the game.
They closed out the game and dominated all over the pitch. Tyrone had no cohesion or movement in the forward line. They tried to carry the ball through Kerry but O’Connor’s side got 12 or 13 men behind the ball and Tyrone’s short-passing game was not the way to break it down.
They weren’t kicking the ball long because they had no one inside to win it. They had to run it and employ a hand-passing game but that played into Kerry’s hands. When they turned Tyrone over they broke at pace and all their big forwards performed. It was like the Kerry you see most weeks.
There was a physical edge to the game but Tyrone resembled a cranky, old team that tried to drag the game down to their level. The turning point was Ryan McMenamin coming on: he offered them absolutely nothing and all he did was slow the game down and it contributed to the overall malaise in the side. The old Tyrone wouldn’t have got involved in that stuff. They would’ve tackled hard and fair and turned the ball over but they look now like a team in decline. They’ve lost a lot of players and I think they will lose three or four more.
They lacked discipline and all the characteristics that made them such a great team. Kerry met them head on and at the end of the day they had the better footballers. This will do them enormous good and no one will want to draw them now.
EMMETT BOLTON WAS Kildare’s saviour but Limerick put in a very good performance. Some teams seem to focus far more on the qualifiers and we’ve seen that from the weaker counties over the last few weeks.
Limerick got to an All-Ireland quarter-final last year and put it up to Kildare on Saturday evening. It doesn’t matter who you’re up against so to get a draw and then go on to win in extra-time will give Kildare the momentum they need.
They can take a number of positives from the game and maybe they deserve a break after some misfortune over the last few years. They look like they will be in a quarter-final now and there’s a great month of football ahead. The top five or six teams in the country are still in the melting pot and that’s what we want to see at this stage of the championship.
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