Thursday 17 January 2019

Goals provide the oxygen for Dubs dominance at headquarters

Carlow’s Daniel St Ledger puts Dublin’s James McCarthy under pressure during their Leinster quarter-final at O’Moore Park
Carlow’s Daniel St Ledger puts Dublin’s James McCarthy under pressure during their Leinster quarter-final at O’Moore Park

After 27 minutes of the last championship meeting between Dublin and Monaghan in 2014, the scoreline stood at 0-4 to 0-3 - very much within the prescribed 'keeping in tight early on' territory for Monaghan.

Four minutes later, Dublin were out the gap.  First Diarmuid Connolly and then Bernard Brogan scored goals to begin Monaghan's burial. Ditto Kildare in the Leinster final. Mostly, Cian O'Neill's team lived with Dublin for ten minutes until Dean Rock and James McCarthy stole in behind their cover to score goals within 60 seconds of one another and consign yet another Leinster final to exhibition status for the Dubs.

"It's probably worth more than a goal to them sometimes," says Daniel St Ledger, the man who wore the number six jersey in the Carlow team that kept Dublin goal-less in Portlaoise in June. "Psychologically for us, it was a big thing to keep them without a goal."

The upshot was that despite going on to 12-points, Dublin had to be patient and measured against Carlow's organised resistance and fierce physicality. UNCOMFORTABLE It was as uncomfortable as Jim Gavin's team have looked all summer. "It's a Catch 22," St Ledger, who plays his club football with St Sylvester's in Dublin, explains.

"It's about trying to strike the balance between the two. "Going back on it, we might have over-emphasised the need not to concede. "We were too cautious maybe. But coming from where we were coming from, we had to be I suppose." The alternative to Carlow's caution was Westmeath's stated objective of 'having a go,' as Tom Cribbin explained afterwards.

"The Westmeath game was a bit of a nothing. They didn't have a cut or they didn't defend. They did nothing really," St Ledger points out. "You try and kick long, early ball, they're just too physically imposing and they're too quick.

"They're going to beat you in a 50/50.  "So it has to be through the hands down the middle, trying to keep it out of the tackle as much as possible.

"Because if they swallow you up, it's a turnover straight away. And most teams struggle with that. "Even if you look at Kerry last weekend. If someone runs at you down the middle, it's very hard to stop them without fouling."


St Ledger would be "surprised if Monaghan change anything tactically," for Saturday. "I know it's a bit of a clichéd phrase, but they really have to up the intensity," he adds. "We tried to slow Dublin down as much as possible in the first half and take our time with kick-outs and things, just to take the sting out of it."

Carlow also drove Monaghan almost to the point of distraction in the qualifiers but fell to a late surge from them too. Their big-hitting, counter-attacking game seemed as suited to playing Dublin as any that day.

"You have to play that counter-attacking style to have any chance against Dublin," St Ledger says.

"You can't high press…even a press around the middle third is a massive risk," he stresses.

"They're (Monaghan) going to have to ride their luck. exposed.

"There's going to be times in the match when they're exposed but they're going to have to take that risk at some stage in the game.

"Not at the start. Not in the first half. But," St Ledger adds, "there's going to be a point when they make a squeeze and go."

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