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Thursday 19 October 2017

a case for defence

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STAT ALERT: St Oliver Plunkett's/ER are, along with An Ghaeltacht, the only clubs ever to spawn two Footballers of the Year.

And like the West Kerry outfit (Tomás Ó Sé 2004, Marc Ó Sé 2007), Plunkett's have had the eternal benefit of Alan and Bernard Brogan operating simultaneously in their pomp.

Which is partly why Anthony Moyles, the former Meath captain and Plunkett's player, feels it would be "an absolute shame" were the Navan Road club to endure the span of their distinguished careers devoid of a county title.

"It was probably an awful lot of the reason that I went there," admits Moyles, who played for Plunkett's between 2009 and 2012 inclusive.

"I felt it was a team who, if we could win a Championship, we could go to an All-Ireland."

It hardly stands to reason that Dublin have managed two county All-Irelands, largely off the backs of the Brogans, yet Plunkett's have yet to cross the county title threshold.

It's a testament, Moyles feels, to the recent strength of the Dublin senior football championship.

And it's why he doesn't see Plunkett's recent and fairly radical style change as having been any sort of hard sell.

It's beauty, says Moyles, is threefold. Firstly - and most obviously - it constricts space.

In their three matches since the Championship resumed in September, Plunkett's have conceded less than eight points per match. They've yet to ship a goal.

Dublin champions of 2012, Ballymun Kickhams, scored 3-17 in their second round match against Fingal Ravens. They got 0-10 against Plunkett's.

Kevin McManamon managed all of 3-5 himself against a Tony McEntee-managed St Brigid's team but drew a frustrated blank in the semi-final.

Secondly, it leaves an expanse of space for Alan, Bernard and 'Nesty' Smith to do their thing.

contrived

For contrast, Moyles cites the 2011 county final loss to St Brigid's, when one of the most jewel-encrusted attacks ever fielded in the Dublin SFC contrived to score just eight points.

"That day we started with Bernard, Alan, Jason (Sherlock), 'Nesty', Adrian Darcy and James Brogan. There's six serious operators.

"You think: 'Jesus lads, even if we only win 30 per cent of the football, we'll win here'."

And lastly, it alleviates the necessity of Bernard shooting the place asunder, like he did in the drawn 2008 final. "The pressure is off an awful lot," Moyles acknowledes. "And I think the system has helped that."

For all that, Plunkett's will still only be the second tightest defensive alignment Diarmuid Connolly will have played against this year.

"If he puts his mind to it, he could probably beat you on his own," Moyles, who predicts a Plunkett's win on Monday night, insists.

"You're going to have to put someone on him and wherever he goes. If you restrict him to five or six points, you have to say that that's not a bad day's work.

"He doesn't run around like a headless chicken. He hangs off and nearly lets the defenders make his mind up for him. He'll stick it over from anywhere."

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