Dublin To Win After Roller-Coaster Ride.

IF you are a Donegal supporter the odds suggest you should stay at home. Dublin are chalked at 1/10 and amazingly, Donegal are 7/1 which constitute crazy odds for a two-horse race. Straight up let me put my cards on the table: I expect Dublin to beat Donegal. Eventually. But they will have to endure an attritional hour of football, show maturity and patience and play a mountain of football to get that win.

A little sober context then: we agree Donegal are a better team than Monaghan, the Dubs opponents in the quarter-final? And surely we agree Donegal’s defence is a multiple times more organised, athletic and disciplined than the Monaghan men? That last assertion is based on a Donegal defence that are road-tested over the past four years and won an All-Ireland using it as their bedrock.

Now, think back to Dublin’s quarter-final. With just short of 25 minutes played Dublin had yet to claim a score from play. It would take the full half hour before their first point from open play was registered. That is not the form of an unbeatable team.

Indeed, the two goals that settled Dublin, perhaps settled the entire result, came in the 25th and 28th minute and might well be traced to the injury Colin Walshe sustained. Up to that point he had man-marked Bernard Brogan well.

So, Dublin are not unbeatable and the odds above and various opinions that suggest they might beat the pick of the three other teams that were in the semi-finals are well wide of the mark.

Donegal squeezed by Armagh by an unimpressive single point but will have used the three weeks since to forensically analyse the Dublin system. I accept Donegal are not playing as well as they did in 2012 when they won Sam, but I will argue that they have more talented players this time around.

Of course this will be a contest of contrasting styles – expect little or no change in the methods both teams employ to ensure victory. It’s nearly a case of all out defence versus all out attack with a keen emphasis from both teams on their transition game once the ball is lost by the opposition.

Donegal will want to get Michael Murphy more involved and higher up the pitch but probably will sacrifice the latter aspiration to keep their defence tight. Dublin will want a serious tempo throughout with width and pace the two key factors in their approach. Expect quick frees and restarts to be the order of the day for the Dubs but of all the challenges Dublin will face, I suggest the need to be patient on the ball will be the crucial test.

Donegal’s key goal will be to keep Dublin from scoring a goal! I have argued before that Dublin take such energy from a goal that it liberates them – witness the Monaghan collapse once the first goal went in. Donegal will guard their nets with all their might so expect the McGees to take no prisoners when the Brogans, Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly come calling.

We got an amazing finish to Mayo versus Kerry and this week the same potential is there. It is such an intriguing game and it might surpass last week’s draw in terms of tension because neither team is likely to blink. The 2012 champions go toe-to-toe with the 2013 champs and the memory of that mad duel in 2011 will inform us that we should strap in for the spin.

It could be a roller-coaster. But only if Donegal prevent Dublin from scoring goals.(The Herald)
Image Credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE.IMG_7848.JPG

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