Wednesday 17 October 2018

Paul Curran: Championship can really start now after Leinster farce

12 July 2015; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup after the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Westmeath v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
12 July 2015; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup after the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Westmeath v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

THE Leinster SFC has become a non-event over the last decade as Dublin continue to dominate the competition and that trend is unlikely to change in the coming years. Dublin are streets ahead of every team in the province and are in fact going away from every other county including Meath and Kildare.

The reality is that Dublin have been the best team in division one over the last three years and they are coming up against inferior opposition in the championship. It therefore isn't a surprise that they are able to comfortably defeat teams from division three.

Westmeath did well to get to the final but were never going to win it. Yesterday's game was always going to be about damage limitation and coming away with their pride intact. To be fair to them the achieved this by introducing and implementing their version of the blanket defence.

It was a new system of play adopted solely for this game but the lack of an attacking game-plan really hurt them. If they can go away and work on this for next year they could improve significantly and would be a good bet to win promotion next season.

It isn't that they haven't got the forwards. John Heslin and Kieran Martin are quality players but just didn't get enough ball in the danger area and it was worrying from a Westmeath perspective to see Heslin limping off with ten minutes to go. He is a very important player and would be sorely missed if he doesn't make the next game.

For Dublin it was yet another provincial title, their second five in-a-row in little over a decade. They were never at their best but were always in control and sometimes that can be the best way to go into the next game.

The video will make for interesting viewing over the coming weeks and will show up quite a lot of poor play that will be corrected in the meantime. The blanket defence in fairness did its job and limited the Dublin forwards to just eight scores in the opening half.

More significantly only four of those scores came from play and only two of the forwards managed to breach the Westmeath rearguard. Diarmuid Connolly kicked the first from play with nearly half an hour played and he put in another outstanding shift yesterday.

He got great support from Ciarán Kilkenny who is having a great year and his ability to drive past defenders will be very important as the summer picks up pace.

At half-time Westmeath would have been very happy and would have spoken about the importance of stopping Dublin scoring goals but within a five-minute period after half-time Dublin got through for two crucial three-pointers.

The tactic of pushing up and pressurising Darren Quinn's kickouts had the Westmeath keeper in all sorts of trouble and Dublin were able to move the ball into the danger area quickly to create the openings.

Both goals were finished brilliantly by Bernard Brogan, who timed his run into the square to palm the ball home and then Jack McCaffrey killed the game a minute later after a poor kickout.

It was a surprise that those scores didn't open the floodgates as Dublin only managed to add another four points in the last thirty minutes of play.

Dublin won't know their quarter-final opponents for another couple of weeks but they will be happy that their mission of winning another title was accomplished.

For Jim Gavin and his men the real competition starts then and he will be aware of the fact that they will face a team that has serious momentum. There is plenty of room for improvement and plenty of time to work on a few things. The defence looks very solid and is unlikely to fall into the same trap as they did last year. The one team I think Dublin need to avoid is Tyrone, providing they make it through the next round.


Byrne incident should be end of Blues playing challenges

DUBLIN along with the GAA need to review their challenge games policy after a shocking incident last weekend which left Davey Byrne hospitalised and in need of corrective surgery.

According to my source it was an unprovoked attack before the ball was thrown in to start the game and the unnamed Armagh player still played a part in the game.

The reaction from the Dublin camp was surprising in many ways but I understand why Jim Gavin would want to move on from this and get his players mind refocused on the upcoming games.

Any distractions are unwelcome at this stage of play.

That said the most important thing for Dublin going forward is to probably forget these games which only give opponents an opportunity to score some cheap points.

There is enough talent in the county to organise in-house games between the As and Bs and even a C side.

Mickey Harte doesn't do friendlies and his team won three All-Irelands in recent times.

The Dublin players are extremely professional so the benefits gained by challenge games at this stage of the year are minimal.

Davey Byrne is a terrific player and a young man I respect. He has an outstanding attitude and although bloodied and down at the moment I expect him to bounce back.

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