Dublin forwards falling short

DUBLIN footballers may still be without a manager, but the absence of scoring forwards is doing the real damage, according to Ballyboden St Enda’s joint manager Niall Brennan.

The former Cavan player has played and managed teams in a number of counties. However, he has been shocked by the poor standard of forward play in the Dublin championship since taking the helm at the southside club alongside former Nemo Rangers stalwart Dan O’Sullivan.

On Sunday, ’Boden could manage only 2-2 in their county final clash with Kilmacud Crokes, with Conal Keaney claiming 2-1.

Crokes finished with a tally of 0-11 but the two teams amassed 17 wides on what was, admittedly, a windy day for football.

Still and all, for a county final, that is poor scoring on a perfect surface. Crokes’ Mark Vaughan missed a handful of straight-forward frees while Ray Cosgrove’s poor recent form continued.

“Club championships matches in Dublin tend not to be high scoring,” said Brennan: “You can see the affect of all that when it comes to the county team as well. They’ve struggled in front of goal the last few years. Why this is I don’t know, but down the country the level of accuracy and skill in shooting is far higher; I would say by as much as 50%. You see forwards down the country shooting accurately from 50 yards out. That doesn’t happen so much in Dublin.”

Brennan has been conducting a study on forward play since starting his role at Ballyboden and hopes to come to some conclusion in the months ahead.

The news isn’t all doom and gloom in the capital, however: “The flip side to what I have seen of the forwards is Dublin defences seem to be far better than their counterparts down the country. That might have something to do with their levels of fitness which are the highest I’ve seen anywhere.”

“Dublin championship football is also very strong even if you’d wince at some aspects of the play. It’s very clean football and I would say that the standard of refereeing is the best in the country. And I’ve seen lots of football in Cavan, Meath and other counties. Dublin club games are not that fractious; they’re actually very sporting, very clean.”

For Crokes, the next item on the agenda is the Leinster championship, which they last won on the way to All-Ireland honours ten years ago under Tommy Lyons.

They were already hot favourites to take the provincial crown before Sunday’s win.

“This is all we set out to win,” said captain Ciaran Kelleher. “It would have been foolish of us to plan any further ahead than the Dublin championship. We’ll give the Leinster championship a good go now.

“Dublin teams tend to have a good record in the Leinster championship and we’ll get back training on Thursday night and take it from there.

For the next few days though, Crokes can bask in last weekend’s win which finally allowed them to shelve memories of the painful defeat to St Brigid’s in the decider 12 months ago.

“I think the feeling is still relief more than anything else at this stage. After last year we didn’t want to lose this championship, no matter what happened. We were really hanging on at the end but that’s all we wanted to do.”

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