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Friday 26 May 2017

Dubs prove size isn't everything in football

Murchan's performance on Galway danger man Daly set tone for final victory

Dublin players celebrate with the Clarke Cup after their victory in the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 Football Final against Galway at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin players celebrate with the Clarke Cup after their victory in the EirGrid All-Ireland U21 Football Final against Galway at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Pic: Sportsfile

If there was an individual performance contained in Saturday's All-Ireland Under 21 football final that epitomised Dublin's collective character, it was surely that of Eoin Murchan.

In the effusive words of his manager and clubmate, Dessie Farrell afterwards, "he's a small individual but he's worth his weight in gold."

On Saturday in Tullamore in his last match after three years as a Dublin Under 21, Murchan was more valuable than that again.

For all their grit, unity and pace, this Dublin Under 21 team, the competition's last ever champions, were not blessed with size or strength.

Murchan was the smallest man on the pitch and given the task - very wisely, in hindsight - of marking not only Galway's biggest and strongest, but their most experienced and dangerous, in Michael Daly.

Eoin Finnerty of Galway in action against Eoin Murchan of Dublin in Tullamore. Pic: Sportsfile
Eoin Finnerty of Galway in action against Eoin Murchan of Dublin in Tullamore. Pic: Sportsfile

Daly, son of Val, has already made a marked impact for Galway's seniors this year, kicking two points off the bench in their Division 2 League final win over Kildare in Croke Park.

Strength

He possesses the sort of brutish strength and two-footed kicking managers fantasise about.

On Saturday, he scored an early point and threatened to rampage through the Dublin cover but found Murchan's tackling too swift and accurate and his movement, far too fast and frequent.

Murchan then, was the miniature mallet that hammered Galway's sledge.

"It was a mismatch in terms of height and that," Murchan reflected, "but I knew I had other aspects where I could get at him.

"I got a lot of help from my guys we tried to keep the ball away from him as much as possible and I think the rest four lads did that by pressuring the ball further out the field."

Farrell noted afterwards the importance of Dublin getting their defensive match-ups right. Murchan on Daly wasn't the sort of dual you'd have expected Dublin to come out the right side of but they did.

Easily.

"It was a very tough match," Murchan confirmed, "as tough as I have had this year.

"He's a savage player and I knew he had a right and left foot and he's with the Galway seniors too so he is a great player and maybe things didn't go his way…

Murchan, Farrell gushed, is "a brilliant bit of stuff."

"He did a similar job on (Stephen) McBrearty in the semi-final," the Dublin boss pointed out.

The feeling, as it happened, was mutual.

Being one of the very few players in this year's victorious squad to have soldiered and suffered through All-Ireland semi-final losses to Tipperary and Mayo in the last two seasons, Murcahn is highly qualified to adjudge Farrell's managerial abilities.

Asked about Farrell's importance to Dublin's win, Murchan quantified it as "a savage amount."

And not just with this year's side.

"You see it with the seniors where you have Niall Scully, Davy Byrne, (Ciarán) Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey," Murchan pointed out.

"All these lads came up through him and he is the man that made those players him and his management team.

"They put a savage about of work into it and we wouldn't have won the All-Ireland without him and wouldn't have go to where we got to without him and his management team.

"They are unbelievable."

Execution

Indeed, whether Dublin's tactics were more or less impressive than their on-field execution is open to interpretation, just as it was against Donegal in the semi-final.

"As best we could, we tried not taking the ball into contact and that's something we've been working on all year," Farrell said, by way of explanation of his team's ability to avoid the sort of hits they would surely have come out the wrong side of.

"It wasn't something we had to introduce exclusively for this game. We definitely emphasised it coming into this game.

"A big, strong team, very physical and good in the tackle and good in the clamp and good at swarming and they turned us over many times as well.

"I think we did a reasonably good job of passing the ball around them, moving around them and trying to take it away from the physical battle."

While Farrell has taken his leave of management for the time being at least, Murchan and his team mates now join the long, snaking queue for a spot in Dublin's senior squad.

"There's only one minor title won in Dublin in the last 33 years," Farrell pointed out, rejecting the notion that Dublin's recent success at Under 21 would leave too many talented footballers in the senior inter-county shade.

"I think this is our fifth under-21 as well. It's not that there's been a massive success rate at underage level for us.

"We're very fortunate in Dublin to have a very strong senior squad at the minute but it won't always be like that.

Farrell added: "I think there'll be plenty of room for fellas at under-20 and under-21 in the last couple of years to make the breakthrough for sure."

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