herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Kevin McStay: Dubs won't learn a lot from this mis-match

Jim Gavin
Jim Gavin
Ruairi Corrigan, Fermanagh, in action against Tony Kernan, Armagh

Longford were marvellous to drag themselves off the canvas to defeat Offaly a few weeks back in their Leinster championship preliminary round game.

And they were particularly thrilled with that win as it turned the tables on the same opponents who had dismantled them in the Division 4 decider a fortnight earlier.

Such is championship football. But that win in Tullamore was certainly not a shock - most reasonable judges gave Longford a fighting chance of victory.

Those same reasonable judges give Longford absolutely no chance of victory this Sunday when they travel to play the Dubs.

I've mentioned before about the home advantage the favourites enjoy (don't blame the Dubs - Longford voted for this arrangement!) and you know we are talking about two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum here.

Unlike soccer, shock results and victories for minnows rarely happen in Gaelic football. The nature of the scoring system ensures few, if any, bolts from the blue.

So, the only question I can pose is this: what will Dublin learn from this fixture? And the answer has to be that they will learn very little if anything at all.

The pressure Longford can apply, the pace at which they play their game will simply not be enough to provide any stern examination of what Dublin bring to the table.

My 'Man at the Front' tells me the Dubs have five or six slots up for grabs and who wins those jerseys is not of major concern to Jim Galvin and his management team. The chosen ones are much of a muchness compared to those who will be disappointed.

As ever, the star names are the ones that will decide the big games in July, August and September and for now, Dublin merely want to confirm the supporting cast.

almost a given

This Dublin team is not playing the early months of summer to improve their provincial statistics; 5-in-a-row in Leinster is almost a given at this stage. In reality, these early games are merely fences they must jump and in so doing, firm up on their fitness, tactics, selection and form. Nothing more, nothing less.

Because modern preparation deals with favouritism and expectation, shocks just don't happen like they used to back in the day.

Meath scoring five goals and winning a Leinster semi-final (2010) won't happen any day soon under this Dublin group.

The only danger for Dublin, and it is one they are well aware of, will be the lack of a test before August. Can you see Longford, Kildare, Meath or Laois frightening the Dubs?

The dark horse in Leinster is Laois, I believe, and they can beat Kildare when they meet in their quarter-final.

But after that Laois will meet Dublin and their Waterloo.

How close will Longford get then? The bookies say Dublin are 1/200 and the spread confirms a 16-point win by them.

It's hard to chance a wager on either front. And that is the measure of the gap between these teams.

So, Dublin to learn very little indeed - just hope they get no injuries or suspensions. The win itself is guaranteed.

 

Championship format in need of major re-think - watch this space!

Last weekend was a relatively quiet one on the football calendar and next Sunday’s three games look like more of the same.

I’ve dealt with the game in Croke Park and when you scan the rest of the fixture list you will find Fermanagh host Antrim while Tipperary do likewise with Waterford. The latter four teams spent the spring leagues working out of the lower divisions with only Fermanagh able to report a positive finale with promotion before a defeat in their Division 3 final against Armagh.

It is fair to say that this championship clash in Ulster features the two weakest teams in the province and thus the early conclusion that they represented the soft side of the draw appears to be a correct one – surely Monaghan will sail directly to the final no matter the outcome on Sunday?

It puts the debate about a two-tiered championship front and centre once more. London were somewhat annoyed this week when Shane Curran, working alongside me on The Sunday Game, declared they had little to offer in the Connacht championship.

Many were quick to criticise him for his position but if you stick with the facts, it is difficult to disagree with his overall evaluation. It is only London’s recent championship exploits that muddy the waters and keep in mind Galway hammered them last year.

Indeed their salad summer of 2013 was as a result of beating Leitrim and Sligo (candidates themselves for consideration when this two-tiered format is discussed). Roscommon have beaten London by an average of over 12 points in their five previous championship encounters and they ended their league season with three points and bottom of Division 4.

I’m not going to go over old ground on this matter – but let me put it this way: the hurling family came to the conclusion many years ago that not all counties can compete at the elite level; they use the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups to help weaker counties to develop.

987920_2.jpg
Ruairi Corrigan, Fermanagh, in action against Tony Kernan, Armagh

Every county in Ireland realised nearly a century ago that two grades, at least, from senior to intermediate to junior were needed to cater for the various ability levels of clubs due mostly to varying populations.

Can we at least have an informed and considered discussion on the championship format? In a few weeks’ time I will share a proposal myself and a friend have worked on over the past few years and see what ye think of it.

It’s bold but it retains the keystones of our traditional championships. We think it can work and have briefed the GAA on its possibilities. More about the detail in the plan in June.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News