Monday, 22 August 2011

One Step from September

Kerry and September come hand in hand.  That’s just the way it is.  Yesterday at Croke Park they saw off the brave challenge of Mayo.  Colm Cooper was back to his best, terrorising defences.  Today, the Kerry County Board will be getting the suits ordered, the banquet menu in place and starting to think about tickets. 

Now the question is simple, who will they be playing on the famous September Sunday, Dublin or Donegal?  Already RTE will be thinking of ‘Up for the Match’ and will no doubt be wondering if the likes of Brian Mullins, Barney Rock and Kieran Duff will be on the swanky sofas talking about their great battles with the Kingdom.  Also Mickey Sheehy and Paddy Cullen will no doubt be discussing ‘that goal’ from the 1978 final.

The Ulster Champions will have other ideas.  I was in Letterkenny last weekend, the manager (one of the McEniff’s I think) of our hotel was quietly confident.  He said Donegal were progressing nicely.  Over in Glenties Jim McGuiness will have spent the past few weeks plotting a plan for the Dubs and fine tuning his team for another big performance.

So far this season Donegal have set themselves up to be difficult to beat and hit teams on the break.  After Dublin’s whirlwind performance against Tyrone, Donegal will need a big performance.  Can they do it?  Former Derrylaughan and Greenlough manager Neil McCloy (left) analyses the teams.

Dublin are one of the season’s form teams, reflected in them reaching the division 1 final and posting big scores.  They are littered with pace and like all successful teams, have clinical forwards particularly Connolly and the two Brogans, making them formidable opposition.  All of their forwards can score from distance and against Tyrone all of them scored.” 

It is not just their attacks that has made McCloy take note.  “Their defensive system invites their opposition in, so they can counter attack at pace.  Some people may be of the opinion that Dublin have an untried defence.  I do agree but their defensive system ensures that they are not left open and vulnerable. They pack the scoring area with players, with their half forward line dropping back for protection.”

“They maintain their shape and often leave a sweeper in place when they go on the attack. A high workrate ensures that pressure is applied from the midfield line to scoring area. The way Dublin defend is key to their attacking, they invite their opposition in and leave space for their scoring forwards and it worked to great affect in their game against Tyrone. I don't expect Donegal to be as open and allow them the same luxury.”

It is often the case that teams cannot put big performances back to back. 
Cork powering past Down, then floundering to Mayo.  Loup man McCloy, also thinks Dublin will have to handle the high expectation in the build-up to Sunday.

Diarmuid Connolly
“After the last game all the hype will be on Dublin and it will be interesting to see how they cope with this. Here is a team that got beat at this stage last year and were in control of the league final when they collapsed against Cork. They were also fortunate against Kildare with a dubious free given and were poor against Wexford so lots of questions still remain with this Dublin team which will give Donegal confidence. They will not be expected to win but I feel they have a great chance.”

One aspect that Jim McGuiness has brought to the Donegal setup is that of superb organisation.  McCloy reiterates this.  “Donegal will continue to use the system that has been a success for them to date. 
Croke Park has loads of space but against Kildare it was clear that Donegal are well physically trained and can implement their game plan.”

“In Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey, they have defenders to mark Dublin’s key players. Dublin are going to have to get scores from distance, which could prove difficult, every time they shoot they will be surrounded by two Donegal men putting huge pressure on.  To date Dublin have not been challenged with this. Donegal can soak up the pressure and likewise with a fully fit Michael Murphy they will be also be hard to work with. Colm McFadden will have better games than his last day out and with impact players like Christy Toye and Brick Molloy Dublin will have their hands full.”

It is well documented the influence Stephen Cluxton has with this kick-out strategy.  McCloy reckons Donegal won’t be too concerned with this.  “I expect Donegal to give Dublin the share of their kick-outs and hope to soak up the pressure in their defensive system. By going man to man on their kick-outs it will leave them open at the back and they will have learned from Tyrone’s mistakes.”

When Dublin won back in 1995, it was “Boom boom boom, let me hear you say Jayo” with Jason Sherlock fever.  In 1992 Anthony Molloy famously said, ‘Sam is for the hills’.  Next Monday morning, will it be Magee Tailored in Donegal Town, or Arnott’s on
Henry Street
that will be receiving an order for the All-Ireland Final suits?

An intriguing game in prospect.  Jack O’Connor, the Gooch and co will be watching with great interest, as yet again Kerry have reacquainted themselves with the month of September.

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