Blue Machine Can Roll On After Bumpy Journey.

MONAGHAN’S path to tomorrow’s All-Ireland quarter-final has not been a continual series of victories which is in stark contrast to the path taken by the Dubs. Tomorrow night’s game will represent a very different test for this Dublin team.

Monaghan have had their setbacks this year. They have learnt lessons in defeat but on a positive note they have had a series of tough championship games. Winning does not happen in straight lines but they are back in the last-eight of the championship. Monaghan are a hardened team that will be ready to leave an imprint on Dublin regardless of the result.

Life has been easy for Dublin thus far. However, it could be argued also that they have made life easy on the basis of their performances to date.

They have played what I would describe as “nice” teams. Laois, Wexford and Meath all offered little resistance and probably stood off admiring the Dubs for long periods of their games.

Man for man, Monaghan will struggle to match Dublin’s footballing ability and natural talent in most areas of the pitch. But collectively they may pose a different challenge. Monaghan are renowned for the defensive game-plan that they have implemented with great effect over the last couple of years. But will that game-plan be enough to knock Dublin out of their stride?

Well if it is implemented effectively like it was in last year’s Ulster Final against Donegal, then there is no question it will force Dublin to answer a few questions. That game was the benchmark in terms of this Monaghan team. It is that level of performance that Monaghan must reach when they physically and tactically blew a tired Donegal team off the pitch.

I expect Monaghan to be like men possessed. In fact, I would go as far to say that they may try to bully Dublin by getting in their faces right from the beginning with an intention of breaking their composure and concentration.

It is a tactic that no one has tried against Dublin and it is only a matter of time before someone throws down the gauntlet and tries to match Dublin in the physical stakes.

There are now no second chances; this is a win at all costs game for both teams. No quarter will be given and Monaghan will play this game right on the edge of the rules.

Dublin will need to prepare well for this challenge with discipline so important and it is a facet of the game that will be spoken about in the Dublin camp this week. Michael Daragh Macauley and Diarmuid Connolly amongst others are two prime examples that will probably be the most likely targets and they must control their emotions. Dublin cannot afford to get sucked into any running battles off the ball, verbal or physical.

Whilst Monaghan will impose themselves physically, it will only carry them so far as eventually football will win out if Dublin keep 15 players on the pitch.

The intensity of Monaghan’s tackling was lacking for long periods against Kildare and Donegal resulting in their defensive line being breached with ease on numerous occasions. The reality for Malachy O’Rourke’s men is that they have not yet reached the heights of 2013.

However, after their first championship win in Croke Park since 1930 last weekend, I do expect that they will raise their level of performance.

For a long time now, we have been hearing from many commentators that the only way to tackle the Dubs was to park the bus in front of their forward line. In fact, even maybe try park two buses and see how the Dubs cope?

Sure didn’t Donegal do that in 2011 and it caused mass frustration. Whilst it was at that time intriguing, the facts are that Donegal still lost that game. So did it work in 2011 and will it work for Monaghan against this Dublin team in 2014? No it didn’t and it won’t work tomorrow either.

This a very different Dublin outfit than the team in 2011 under the guidance of Pat Gilroy. Back then Dublin were still conservative with defence been their number one priority and they were reluctant to commit bodies forward to attack.

Jim Gavin has a very different tactical philosophy and also has different individual talent at his disposal now.

If a team wants to play 14 men behind the ball, then Dublin will attack with 14 men if necessary with runners coming from deep. If Dublin concede on the counter-attack then so be it, Dublin will just have to score two goals at the other end. It is as simple as that. It is risk versus reward strategy and it is a philosophy that has delivered a 100 per cent championship record since Gavin took the reins.

Derry already tried a poor form of the blanket defence in the NFL final and with the Dublin full-back line exposed by huge space in front of them, Derry rattled the net in the opening minutes. However, within 30 minutes, they were staring into the abyss as Dublin cut through their defensive wall like a hot knife through butter. The tactic invited the likes of James McCarthy and Jonny Cooper to attack on the overlap and they carved their way through the Derry defence.

The bottom line is that Monaghan will prove to be a tougher nut for Dublin to crack. It is a game that Dublin need and probably craves at this stage. It may take Dublin time to adapt to the game but a third quarter surge could just prove the tonic to derail Monaghan. After a serious battle and a few physical exchanges Dublin should prevail by six or seven points – the blue machine will roll on. (Ciaran Whelan,The Herald)
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