Joe McQuillan may be as familiar with Dublin and Mayo as Aidan O’Shea with his local barber shop, but there is no love lost with either camp.
Three years ago, James Horan intimated the referee was cosy with Dublin.
Thirteen months later — and after Mayo players bickered with his time-keeping — a victorious Jim Gavin claimed the Cavan referee was favouring Mayo despite a largely justified free count against Dublin.
McQuillan, it’s fair to say, can’t win. Then again he’s not supposed to, but now Gavin, in the wake of the mind boggling 21-4 free count against his team in the Fermanagh game, is ramping up the mind games.
Speaking last week, Gavin said: “2013 was two years ago, a long time in football, but no matter what decisions go against us... I don’t have the statistics, but in most games it goes against us, the free count. But that’s something we can’t control. We’ve become accustomed to that now at this stage and we just get on with it.”
Former Dublin star forward Vinny Murphy knows the game Gavin’s trying to play. He’s not going to condemn it either but would prefer if Gavin concentrated on buttressing his defence. “It’s common enough to think that when David is playing Goliath, David is going to get the soft free. The count was 21-4 against Dublin in their last game. That was a bit odd but what Jim is doing now is what all managers are doing. They’re hoping to get the 50-50 calls. I go back to the 2012 semi-final when Mayo beat Dublin. There were a huge amount of fouls by Mayo and a lot of them cynical. Mayo seemed to be saying ‘don’t let Dublin build from the back’. So they stopped, stopped, stopped. I know Joe Brolly went on a bit of a rant about it but having looked back on the tape, he was correct. There should have been four or five Mayo players shown second yellows and gone. The referee didn’t apply them.
“The cynical play? Let’s be straight, if you’re three or four points up in the last five minutes and a fella is going by you, you’re going to give away the free. Fellas say it’s not in the game; it is. You can foul in a game. The dark arts, man-to-man marking, double teaming on fellas, the sledging that’s going on. I’ve heard about some of the sledging going on and said to myself you would have to be very weak-minded to be reacting to that type of thing.
“Fellas have to stand up for themselves. When I talk about the dark arts I mean how a defender gets an advantage on a forward be it pulling a jersey or whatever. Dublin? There’s a naivety to their play.
“They sort of say ‘I’m a better player than you, I’m going to prove it’. Whereas they don’t say ‘I’m a back, I’m going to stop you playing and then I’m going to play’.
“Kerry, to me, have always been the masters of the dark arts because a lot of it is never spotted and because they are from a traditional, pure football county it’s never seen.
“Kerry can play it any way you want; if you want to mix it they’ll mix it up. “
Murphy knows Dublin only conceded the first two goals of the summer in the All-Ireland quarter-final yet is perturbed by how easy they have had it thus far. He also insists the “nobility” attached to their style can only go so far.
“Dublin don’t seem to have a recognised defensive coach. Jayo (Sherlock) was brought in for the forwards. If Paul Curran was brought in for the defence I felt Dublin would walk away with the All-Ireland and Fermanagh wouldn’t have got those two goals because he would have been on their backs’ cases. It all depends on Dublin and if they’re tighter. Everybody is saying they are but I’m not convinced. They’re all footballers and to win things it’s not always football you need.
“The dark arts have to come into it. The basics of ‘defend first and attack second’ against a team like Mayo need to be followed rather than ‘attack, attack, attack’. With Aidan O’Shea at the edge of the square, they can fire long balls in. There are three or four defenders there who love attacking but if Dublin are turned over and they’re up-field I think it could spell a lot of trouble for Dublin.”
* Vinnie Murphy was speaking at the Sure Zorbing event at Herbert Park. See how he got on racing against Conor Mortimer below
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