We love clichés in the GAA, no matter what way a game goes.
There are always standard responses that get rolled out and when we have a drawn championship tie; the common line tends to be “it’ll be the team that learns the most from the drawn game who’ll come through the replay”.
Is that really the case? While there is a lot of merit in the statement I think there is more to it. It’s not just what a team learns from the drawn game but what can realistically be implemented in a six-day turnaround. It’s all well and good spotting an issue but when management and players review the game tape this week it has to be with an eye on what can be influenced in a short timeframe.
Jim Gavin and his management will have begun the review process as soon as they left the ground Sunday. Some of the areas to work on would not have required a video review and they would know that conceding 1-9 to Cillian O’Connor’s placed balls is a primary area to target for improvement. In a game where the Mayo forward structure was fractured and ineffective for long periods, Dublin conceded enough scorable frees that kept the Connacht champions within touching distance throughout.
In many instances last week it was the second man in to tackle that fouled which negated good defensive work from the initial defender. So the message to Dublin defenders will be to remain physical in the tackle but force the Mayo forwards to kick for scores from play under pressure rather than lunging in.
Kick-outs and the speed at which Dublin played the ball out from the back will be another critical area of focus ahead of this evening’s rematch. Dublin will be acutely aware that when Mayo pushed up in the second-half to take away the chip kick-out and force Dublin to kick long, they were under pressure.
Stephen Cluxton has been criticised during the week but if you look at many of the re-starts again the usual movement and options were not available to him. The ’keeper was blamed from the kick-out that Mayo won directly after the penalty which led to Andy Moran’s equaliser. But if you look back on the tape of the game there was indecision between two Dublin players as to who was showing and both stopped their run as Cluxton kicked.
These are very fine margins and Dublin will look to create more space and targets for their custodian to hit in that 35m to 45m range.
The personnel selected to play around the middle third will also have an impact on Dublin’s kick-outs.
Denis Bastick made a huge impact in the 15 or so minutes he was on the pitch last week and would give Dublin a more traditional catching option if they are required to go for length from the kick-outs.
I have heard quite a lot this week that Bastick, and Alan Brogan from a forward’s perspective, should both remain in reserve as they would not last the full 70 minutes.
I can’t agree with that. Yes, they are in their 30s but both are still extremely fit and athletic players. I can understand questioning whether they would have issue lasting six or seven high intensity full championship games but at this stage of the year when you need them to perform for 73 or 74 minutes, after months of training and conditioning, that shouldn’t be a reason to hold them in reserve.
Another factor that will help Dublin from the drawn game will be the experience of playing a game at that speed and intensity for the first time all year. Intensity, or lack of, can often be thrown around to describe many areas of a team’s performance but in this specific instance I believe that while Dublin will have learned from earlier championship games, it is almost impossible for them to replicate the physicality and pace that the semi-final was played at, no matter how strong their A v B training games are. Players had a split-second less than they were used to in possession, which resulted in Dublin turning the ball over on a number of occasions. Unforced errors are a cardinal sin, giving possession back to your opponent can leave a team open at the back.
Look for Dublin players to be sharper in their delivery of passes and support runners looking to give the man in possession more options to limit the turnovers.
Dublin were the better team for the guts of an hour last week. Improve in some of these areas and I believe it will make it very hard for Mayo to match.
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