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Dublin's game plan has to be adjusted

IT was a hugely entertaining match yesterday, which turned out to be a devastating defeat for this young Dublin team, but a good win for a Cork side which has been around now for quite some time without ever getting over the line.

They still have another 70 minutes to negotiate, but if they do go on and win this year's title they will look back at yesterday's game as the one which turned their entire season.

Cork are now odds on to become champions which would be a remarkable achievement after so many near misses. While the Rebels march on, the Dublin players will go back to their clubs this week to prepare for the club championships, but it will take a long time to get this latest defeat out of the system.

The game was there for the taking and it looked very good for Dublin right up until the last ten minutes but a few rash challenges on Cork forwards in scoring positions brought Rebels to within touching distance.



CREDIT

Credit, of course, to Donnacha O'Connor, who has been in and out of the team this year, for showing great courage in kicking the winning score 40 metres from the Canal End goal despite the fact that he had missed an easier chance earlier in that second half.

It was a terrific contest between two honest teams and it was Dublin who probably needed a quick start and they certainly got that with a goal in the second minute. A long ball from Niall Corkery found Bernard Brogan in space behind Ray Carey and his finish was exactly what one would expect from a class player.

Dublin were off and running and from there to the end of the opening half they looked extremely comfortable and the game plan was working smoothly while at the same time Cork looked frustrated and clueless at times.

All too often they took the wrong options and overplayed the ball in their own half, which suited Dublin down to the ground, but as the half wore on you could see that Cork had the talent to get the necessary scores to close the gap.

Incredibly, Dublin led by five points on five different occasions in the game but couldn't get the killer score. The longer the match went on with just a few scores in it the more concerned the Dublin supporters became nervy and for good reason it proved as Cork changed tactics in the last quarter deciding to run at the Dublin defence.

The free count against the Dublin backs began to tally up and eventually Cork got their noses in front with time running out and the Dublin spirit was eventually broken. From a Cork perspective, this win will be very pleasing as they won it the hard way.

They trailed from the opening minutes right up until the very last minute so at no time in between did they either look or feel like they were going to come out victorious. Conor Counihan's team has taken its share of stick over the last few years but yesterday they proved that they can win a close game without playing to their true potential.

It has been a tough few years for Cork and their supporters, but they now have a genuine opportunity of picking up the counties first senior football title in 20 long years. For Dublin the long wait continues for another year, but the improvement in a few months has been significant.

The gap is closing between them and the better teams, but they did lack the experience to get over the line on this occasion.

Cork, on the other hand, didn't panic and probably just deserved to win, but many pundits would probably disagree.

I still have a problem with the way the defence is set up as it invites the opposition onwards and that, for me at least, is a dangerous way to play the game.

It works beautifully when you establish a decent lead, but when you are chasing the match it simply doesn't work.

Somewhere along the way the pressure being applied on the defence was bound to tell and I felt that Dublin should have pushed up on the Cork players and adopt more of an offensive game especially when they led by five points with about 18 minutes left. That said, the Dublin players worked their socks off and came close to pulling off a shock victory and hopefully the experience will stand to these young players in the coming years. Michael Fitzsimons, Rory O'Carroll, and Philip McMahon grew with every game and their performances have been excellent, apart from a dodgy start to the provincial championship.

Yesterday, they couldn't be faulted, although one wonders why Rory O'Carroll was left on the field for about 12 minutes when it was clear to everyone that he wasn't able to run.

Whether it had a bearing on the eventual outcome is unclear, but while he was struggling Cork managed to convert three points to level the game.



COMMITTED

The last five minutes or so were hard to watch as Cork powered towards the Dublin goal and the Dubs defenders committed the fouls that resulted in scores. Colm O'Neill, who was introduced in the second half, was the chief tormentor and is now pushing for a starting place in the final.

He was taken down in the small square by Ross McConnell which O'Connor converted confidently, despite the fact that his shot seemed to run along the ground. That score put the minimum between the teams but Dublin kicked the next two from play to lead by three with just over ten to go.

Cork, however, were not to be denied and it was O'Connor, again with a pressure free-kick, and then sub Derek Kavanagh who closed out the game out completely. Dublin will surely learn from this experience and will come back stronger again next year.

When they do, lets hope that the game plan has changed again as most teams out there will find a way around the system, just as Cork did yesterday afternoon. Pride, however, has been restored in the blue jersey and the Dublin supporters can be optimistic as we continue to close the gap.