Monday 5 December 2016

O'Neill recalls Donegal blanket 'shock'

At AIB’s sponsorship of the All-Ireland SFC were Roscommon’s Neil Collins, Dublin’s Paul Flynn, Tyrone’s Ronan O’Neill and Cork’s Colm O’Neill: SPORTSFILE
At AIB’s sponsorship of the All-Ireland SFC were Roscommon’s Neil Collins, Dublin’s Paul Flynn, Tyrone’s Ronan O’Neill and Cork’s Colm O’Neill: SPORTSFILE

Colm O'Neill can recall the "shock" of his first encounter with a blanket defence - against Donegal in the 2012 All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

Now it's almost par for the course - and his own Cork team may well utilise the same suffocating sweeper tactic this summer, depending on the circumstances.

"It's certainly not something you can just click your fingers with. It's something we've been working on now for two or three years," the Rebel sharpshooter remarked.

"My first introduction was in 2012 against Donegal. It was an awful shock that day.

"I can remember just the intensity and amount of bodies they had back. That was my first experience ... now it's even happening in club level."

The tactic is hardly designed to please a prolific finisher like O'Neill, although he demurred: "At the start you'd say, 'Here we go again' but at this stage it's the norm.

"Teams are getting better at adapting to the blanket defence and teams are working around it and trying ways to break it down and, as I say, I think the top teams are probably breaking it down.

"There mightn't be as much negative football or blanket defence or sweepers in this championship now - you never know."

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