herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

All-Ireland is Dublin's to lose

THE ability to match up your players, a process whereby managers decide on the marking responsibilities that might confer advantage to his team, is fast becoming a critical part of the modern managers' armoury.

Meath, as underdogs, and facing so many varied and daunting challenges from the opposition, would have spent many hours in the weeks building up to the final trying to get those pairings spot on.

By the Friday before the game, Mick O'Dowd had his hands on the Dublin teamsheet and while he would have possibly guessed a few changes from the printed version, there is no doubt he planned for what was in front of him.

Some minutes before the throw-in Dublin changed their selection dramatically - Mick Fitzsimons, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion all entered the arena for the throw-in. The need for speed is a statement Dublin try to back up at every opportunity by insisting they select players who can move at break neck speed.

And the opposition, if they have a deficit in this area, are in serious trouble because there are two assets you can not coach in sport: pace and size. You either have it. Or you don't!

Dublin blitzed Meath with speedy support runners so that very often the shooter was the open man, unmarked and with little or no pressure applied, and could tap over the bar or go for a goal chance if that presented.

Dublin were brilliant last Sunday. Everywhere. And the skill level they displayed was of the highest quality. This marks an obvious improvement in their game and coupled with the tight and aggressive defence on display marks an advancement on 2013 standards.

Who can stay with them playing an open game? Perhaps Mayo and Kerry only but probably not for 70-plus minutes. Playing an ultra-defensive game and with the steely qualities required to man up to Dublin, I would feel Donegal have the power, mentality and football too to make it interesting.

But know this: if any team sets up like Meath did and attempts to rock and roll with Dublin, they will not survive. Right now, this All-Ireland is Dublin's to lose but they will have to show up and tog strong for each of the last three hurdles. I imagine they will.

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