Fifteen musketeers are all for one and one for all
Jim Gavin’s biggest problem is who to leave on the bench in the final, says Colm O’Rourke
The usual suspects were not quite as brilliant as usual
THE tone of the game was set from before the first whistle. At the start of this game Eoghan Kerin, the Galway corner back, was giving Paul Mannion a bit of a rough time. He might as well have been battering Stone Cold Steve Austin, the big name of WWF from the past. It only served to annoy Mannion who went on to score four points and give another selfless performance. He typified the Dublin team; all for one and one for all.
They are the 15 musketeers with a lot of help coming from the bench. Imagine being a Galway back, doing fairly well on your man and then seeing Kevin McManamon or Paul Flynn coming on. Or worse still, Cormac Costello, who looks in rude health, another one of these impact subs who probably hates the title and will feel he should start in the final.
Who to leave off is Jim Gavin’s problem. Few managers have ever had such a quandary going into an All-Ireland final. Not alone has he all the main men from previous years, but Brian Howard is a massive addition.
Up to yesterday the same could be said for Eoin Murchan, who has done a remarkable man-marking job on top players up to now, but he looked at times like a little boy lost and Ian Burke was making hay on him in the first half. When Mick Fitzsimons took over the man marking duties in the second half, Burke’s influence waned, but he could be excused on the basis that the supply also dried up.
Galway needed to be in front early and hope to survive the second half onslaught. They had chances, and a few more long balls into Burke and Damien Comer in the full forward line could have reaped rich dividends. Dublin did not seem overly concerned about defence, Philly McMahon often took to wandering upfield, and there were one-on-ones in the full forward line.
Yet the ball in was slow and in the second half, when Galway kicked long there were a few extra defenders. Galway could have had a couple more goals in the first half, Stephen Cluxton was down smartly but Eamonn Brannigan’s penalty was a bit close. On another occasion a short kick-out was spilled, again Cluxton was alert and his kick-outs were as accurate and composed as ever.
For much of the game Dublin looked as if they were playing well within themselves and at the end they did not look as if they had a hard championship match. The faces of the team did not show the scars of battle: no sunken eyes, no great sweat on a warm evening. It could have been a leisurely kick around such is their level of fitness, power and sheer football ability.
Con O’Callaghan was back to his best form too after a series of games when things were not going well for him. Yet it was also obvious that a player like him would come good on the big day as his workrate and sheer effort is second to none. It was only a matter of time before the small things would drop into place and he was back scoring again.
The great thing from a Dublin point of view was that the usual suspects were not quite as brilliant as usual, but players like Howard, Mannion and Jack McCaffrey took the lead. It is like trying to mind mice at a crossroads, once a couple are cornered somebody else escapes and does the damage. The combination of athleticism and quality footballers has rarely been let loose for such a prolonged period, the only team that I can remember with such talent was the Kerry team of the 1970s — and they did not have the array of subs that sit impatiently behind Gavin.
Galway can look back on the year with a degree of satisfaction. A Connacht title and progress from the Super 8. Yet they must be a little despondent too when they look on the gap between them and the Dubs. The league final was a mirage, Dublin only played that day for a while and were always gearing up for a summer campaign. All-Irelands are now the currency in Dublin and they are within touching distance of another. Not only that, but the concern is that nobody this year has been able to take them into the red zone the way Mayo did previously.
Another easy win for Dublin, the same headline as we’ve seen all year. The game was not really a contest, but this Dublin side are an adornment on the game with the way they play and how they conduct themselves off the field. Hopefully the winners today can ask more searching questions than Galway did, but there is a sense of inevitability about the summer season.
Cormac Costello of Dublin scores a point past Galway’s Ruairí Lavelle in Croke Park yesterday.