Monday 20 January 2020

Attack is the best means of defence against Dublin

Containment not an option for Dubs' rivals says Murphy

Michael Murphy of Donegal in action against Mayo during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar
Michael Murphy of Donegal in action against Mayo during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar
Footballer of the Month for July Michael Murphy

He won't get the chance to put his theory to the test but Michael Murphy has a few informed ideas about how to go about beating Dublin.

Or to be more specific, how not to go about it.

"I do believe that you need to rack up a score against Dublin," he says as though it's both the most obvious thing in the world and the most difficult thing to achieve in Gaelic football just now.

"And it's probably one of the things that teams haven't been able to do over the last number of years because they were so interested and so mad about how to stop Dublin," Murphy goes on.

Murphy's law states that stopping Dublin and beating them are two entirely separate challenges.

"I think that's always the big challenge," he says, "racking up a big score to actually match their score. But they've shown, whether they play against a team that sets up defensively against them or sets up attacking against them, they'll hit a certain score."

How big?

"Probably 1-20/2-20 you need to be looking at anyway."

It's a fair ask.

To do that, Murphy insists, you need to take risks.

"Yeah, you do, and the risks need to come off," he stresses.

"You need to be at it and you do have a bit of luck.


"You need to have a damn good team. You need to be able to match them as regards that 70-minute period so you need a hell of a lot of things to be going your way and you need a hell of a lot of boxes ticked.

Murphy's qualifications in this case study are impeccable.

He was captain of the last team to beat Dublin in the Championship, when Donegal scored 3-14 in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final that stands alone in Jim Gavin's loss column as manager.

That was 1,803 days ago.

Since then, Dublin have gone on to win four All-Irelands, swallowing hard on the lessons they were forced to learn that day.

"Their style is, I wouldn't use the word cautious, but it is a lot more careful in their build-up," Murphy, who scored 0-3 day, observes.

"The likelihood of mistakes have been diminished, or seems to be diminished.

"You rarely see them now with missed shots," he notes.

"Their plan really revolves around creating the bes t possible scoring opportunity and taking that. And they seem to be very careful in doing so.

"So, I suppose they have diminished the likelihood of making any mistakes and they have all bought into that, from goalkeeper right the way up to all the subs coming in."

For the moment, these are just theories.

Murphy's chance to use them in practice vanished in Castlebar last Saturday evening.

Mayo's physical edge, their success in key match-ups and a contrivance of poor Donegal shooting and some horrible luck with injuries meant for the second year running, Declan Bonner's team squandered an All-Ireland semi-final spot.

"Their footballing ability is something you can't underestimate too, without a shadow of a doubt," he says of Mayo.

"They play a very direct style of football when they are with the ball and it's very impressive and it's tough to get near to.

"They have a lot of their players back who were injured earlier on in the season, they are massive players to them, so having them back is a huge plus to them too."

Doubtless, Mayo will take risks on Saturday night.

All decade, they have met Dublin at eye-level and even if their run of seven years without victory in the fixture in League or Championship hardly reflects well on their methods, they are the only county to consiste ntly make a game of it against Gavin's team since that defeat in '14.

"Is it the way? No team has proven it yet," Murphy shrugs, "but they're a well furnished machine, they're so far down the line.


"And teams just really need to keep at it and keep trying to develop and keep bringing through players and keep playing a certain way to try and do it for the course of the 70 minutes

"Ah listen, come here, it's going to happen some time," he asserts.

"Inevitably it's going to happen...it's just when that is."

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