Colm O’Rourke

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - COLM O’ROURKE

A gal­lant Mon­aghan reached the end of the line last week­end, while Gal­way limped home know­ing that the progress they have made is still a mile short of the top.

AGALLANT Mon­aghan reached the end of the line last week­end, while Gal­way limped home know­ing that the progress they have made is still a mile short of the top. A new de­par­ture is needed for them with a dif­fer­ent style and some changes in per­son­nel. The good news for Gal­way is that there is def­i­nite po­ten­tial in both ar­eas.

Other teams have demon­strated that there is still a role for de­fend­ers to man-mark while the team op­er­ates with one sweeper. Gal­way will have to re­fine their ver­sion of de­fend­ing and get away from a clus­ter of play­ers lin­ing up on the 45-me­tre line try­ing to di­rect the at­tack­ers into some­one else’s zone.

Their at­tack was found out too, but that is the case for ev­ery county go­ing up against Dublin. If Gal­way can in­tro­duce an­other four or five play­ers, who prob­a­bly are there, then they could build in­cre­men­tally on this year.

But there is a ques­tion as to whether play­ers will give three or four years in this pur­suit with no guar­an­tees of ul­ti­mate suc­cess. Con­nacht cham­pi­onships are not what th­ese play­ers should be sat­is­fied with.

Mon­aghan left the stage with many re­grets. Some out­side their con­trol. The big ref­er­ee­ing calls went against them and those have been well high­lighted. At this stage of the cham­pi­onship the very best ref­er­ees should take charge of all the games. And why is there this silly non­sense of say­ing that a ref­eree who gets the semi-fi­nal won’t get the fi­nal?

Meath may not be top of the charts with play­ers at the mo­ment but in my hum­ble opin­ion the two best ref­er­ees are from Meath, David Gough and David Coldrick. Conor Lane is prob­a­bly next best. Nei­ther of the top two ref­er­eed last week­end. Why not give them th­ese games and one of them the fi­nal too?

There ap­pears to be a view that it is im­por­tant to blood new ref­er­ee­ing tal­ent in big games. That is what the league is for. The best play­ers at the top level of cham­pi­onship foot­ball de­serve the best ref­er­ees. Mon­aghan cer­tainly suf­fered as a re­sult last Sun­day. It did not mat­ter on Satur­day in the semi-fi­nal be­tween Gal­way and Dublin. Rex the dog could be thrown the whis­tle and it would not change the re­sult. As it was, Barry Cas­sidy was not bad, but that is not the point.

Mon­aghan should not hang their hat on a few bad de­ci­sions, even if the Mon­aghan sup­port­ers will never un­der­stand why ref­eree An­thony Nolan had his arm raised which seemed to in­di­cate a free in to Kieran Hughes and then did not blow the whis­tle. Th­ese mo­ments in the last sec­onds of a big game are ob­vi­ously ex­ag­ger­ated in the minds of all, as a free then would likely have sent the game to ex­tra-time. Per­haps it would have been fairest but what has fair­ness got to do with any­thing in foot­ball or in life?

The Mon­aghan per­for­mance was noth­ing like as ad­ven­tur­ous as the one against Gal­way. Of course the Ty­rone de­fence is much bet­ter than Gal­way’s and Ty­rone are a bet­ter all-round team but Mon­aghan suf­fered all through by not get­ting more men ahead of the ball. It meant that any player mak­ing a burst out of de­fence in­vari­ably had to stop, turn around and play the ball back­wards. All mo­men­tum stalled.

It was not much dif­fer­ent for Ty­rone ei­ther, but they had a bet­ter spread of scor­ers. Early on it looked as if they would blow Mon­aghan away with pace and scor­ing power. That waned fairly quickly and it was no­tice­able that there was not the same im­pact off the bench as against Done­gal. The rea­son was sim­ple and some­thing I wrote about last week. Some of the play­ers like Lee Bren­nan and Kieran McGeary are bet­ter than the play­ers who started against Done­gal. If the roles are re­versed and they start, then the subs who come on will not have the de­sired ef­fect. So it tran­spired. Only Dublin have a panel where play­ers are in­ter-change­able to the ex­tent that it will barely af­fect per­for­mance.

Ty­rone are now be­ing ad­vised by all as to how to man­age their kick-outs against Dublin and on the mark­ing ar­range­ments for play­ers like Brian Fen­ton and Ciaran Kilkenny. There is a lot of ed­u­cated rub­bish talked about kick­outs by peo­ple who have never had to coach a team on a kick-out strat­egy. The

The two best ref­er­ees are from Meath, David Gough and David Coldrick

first point is that a lot of goal­keep­ers are not skilled enough in dead-ball kick­ing to carry out any plan. Niall Mor­gan does not fit into that cat­e­gory but he re­lies on play­ers out­field to make runs and space. That of­ten does not hap­pen and op­po­si­tion play­ers are gen­er­ally alert enough to stop things at source.

The other thing is that just be­cause a kick-out is lost does not mean that it is the goal­keeper’s fault. Too of­ten now out­field play­ers, and mid­field­ers in par­tic­u­lar, want to pass on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ac­tu­ally win­ning the ball in the air. There is a great bonus now for a catch with the mark and it is no prob­lem for Colm Ca­vanagh and Brian Fen­ton to go to the clouds and pull a big one down. That will be a great bat­tle in the fi­nal. It was an area that Dublin won, hands up so to speak, in last year’s semi-fi­nal.

Any­way, we are now down to the two best teams even if Ty­rone have al­ready lost twice in the cham­pi­onship, which may ap­pear a con­tra­dic­tion. Yet they are prob­a­bly best-equipped to take on Dublin who al­ways seem to be play­ing well within their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Hope­fully Ty­rone are able to take them out of their com­fort zone. To do so would go against the very con­ser­va­tive game-plan which has got Ty­rone to the fi­nal. Will they risk ev­ery­thing on all-out at­tack?

The chances of that are slim but it would make for a great first half, at least. It might even gloss over — a lit­tle at least — the fact that this has been a bor­ing cham­pi­onship with ev­ery­one bar Dublin play­ing a rot­ten style.

Only Dublin have a panel where play­ers are in­ter-change­able to the ex­tent that it will barely af­fect per­for­mance

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