Saturday 18 November 2017

Coman Goggins: I'm back the Dubs to win on Saturday and here's why ...

Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin, in action against Cillian O'Connor, Mayo. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin
Cian O'Sullivan, Dublin, in action against Cillian O'Connor, Mayo. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin

NO sooner have we caught breath, than it's time for Dublin and Mayo to meet again. Billed as the potential game of the summer, the fall-out from last weekend's drawn semi-final has focused on how defensive both teams set-up, and in advance of their replay both need some corrective surgery if they hope to get over the line for a date with Kerry later in the month.

It is often said that the team who learns more from a draw is the team that will win the replay, so it should be no surprise that with such a short turnaround the focus for both Dublin and Mayo this week will be on video analysis rather than on field preparations.

From a Dublin perspective the last ten minutes of the video will make for grim viewing, but the flip side is that it will also highlight their attacking potency, an area that I believe the Dubs need to hone in on if they want to get over the line at the second time of asking.

In the build-up to last Sunday one of the biggest concerns Dublin faced was just how well they would adapt to a Mayo side who, in seeing off Donegal had the opportunity of testing themselves at a level far above what Jim Gavin's Dubs had encountered to reach the same stage.

This in part may explain just why Dublin conceded such a high tally from placed balls, particularly in the first half, where Gavin's men appeared to be a fraction off the pace, as evidenced in the double figures tally of turnovers as well as some rather clumsy tackles.

The aforementioned tackles have led to accusations in some quarters that Dublin have serious disciplinary issues, and while admittedly the concession of 1-8 (from frees and a penalty) needs to be addressed, I would be more of the view that the bulk of Dublin's problems stemmed from the fact that they turned-over cheap possession as they struggled to get to the pitch of the game, rather than from a complete loss of control.

That Dublin lost players to a couple of black cards as well as a red card makes it easy to point at an increased level of physicality from Gavin's team, but given what was at stake, it would be fair to say that both teams weren't willing to yield an inch as bodies were put on the line.

By my reckoning over the 70-plus minutes Gavin's men contributed to 1-10 of Mayo's 1-15 total, either through poor shot selection or simply through a lack of urgency when on the ball.

Given the emphasis that is placed on retaining control of the football from Stephen Cluxton's kickouts, I would expect Dublin to better protect the ball this Saturday.


If they can reduce these turnovers, even by half, not only will it provide a more solid attacking platform, but in turn it will force Mayo to be more offensively creative, as opposed to allowing them feel their way into the game via the boot of Cillian O'Connor.

This creativity in attack is probably Pat Holmes' and Noel Connelly's biggest quandary. Only one score from play from their starting front six is a clear indication that from an attacking point of view that they need to work on an alternative to Aidan O'Shea being stationed at the edge of the square.

Andy Moran's contribution may earn him a starting role, something that would free up O'Shea to play further out the field. The benefit of this would be two-fold, in that it would create a more mobile inside line, but also offer the Connacht champions another powerful runner, alongside the likes of Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins.

But a change of this magnitude is a big ask in just six days, given just how influential O'Shea has been in Mayo's march to the semi-final.

In contrast Dublin's attacking play had method to it particularly in the opening 35 minutes where they bagged 1-5 when long diagonal balls put Mayo's full-back line under serious pressure in one v one situations.

While Diarmuid Connolly's absence will hurt Dublin (barring a successful hearing tonight), they still need to remain loyal to their ability to move the ball fast and early, as it was clear that the slower and more ponderous they were on the ball the better Mayo were able to cope with Gavin's attack, allowing players time to retreat and clog up the space that Paddy Andrews and Ciarán Kilkenny were operating in so effectively.

My view would be that Dublin should play to their strengths, and while I accept that their goal needs protecting, what sets them apart in their All-Ireland winning year in 2013 was the speed at which they moved the ball, either through the hands with runners supporting at pace or with long accurate foot-passing.

With this in mind I would look at the option of freeing up Cian O'Sullivan from his sweeper role, either moving him to a centre-back role, or bringing him to centrefield with Mick Fitzsimons coming in to play across the full-back line.

The understanding here is that along with Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy, Dublin would have serious pace coming from deep, and would be asking the likes of Keegan and Boyle to work backwards rather than encouraging them to attack. It would also provide Dublin with a different dimension in the crucial middle third of the field. Denis Bastick made a massive contribution when he arrived on the field, but with the success that fell Mayo's way when they put Stephen Cluxton under pressure on his kickouts, holding Bastick in reserve again might just provide Gavin with a game-changer in an area of the field that Mayo will certainly aim to dominate.

While the momentum lies with Mayo on the basis of their recovery, I believe that Sunday's game will have sharpened Dublin minds, and if they bring a renewed energy, then their attacking unit hold the keys to unlocking the door to another All-Ireland final appearance.


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