The Dream Is Over For Now.

I woke this morning with the same devastated feelings I had yesterday at the final whistle and a very heavy heart. Sport as always can be a very cruel friend and throws up shocks like yesterdays result at an alarming rate. I think shock is the reason why so many Dublin Fans were so distraught yesterday and still are today.

None of us seen it coming,Donegal hadn’t shown anything throughout the year that they had a performance like that in them and either had Dublin given any indication that they would put in such a poor performance particularly in the second half of yesterday’s encounter. But as they say that’s sport and the sporting gods have a twisted sense of humor.

First things first Donegal deserved their victory yesterday they were the better team and best of luck to them in the final. But why did it go so wrong for Dublin yesterday,well I think some of it was down to things of their own making and others reasons are beyond their control. I’ll leave the ones out of their control to the end of this piece.

I will not and never will ridicule or criticize any Dublin player or the manager or management team as they deserve better for all the commitment and sacrifice they give for this wonderful county of ours and the Dublin Jersey also the joy and entertainment they give to fans is fantastic. But in analyzing any game you have to be honest.

In my opinion the first thing that went wrong yesterday was the starting fifteen. I found it strange that both Jack McCaffrey and Cormac Costello were both late changes to the team announced on Friday evening and here is why. Jack has for some reason this year only played a bit part in Dublin’s season and didn’t look sharp which is understandable with the lack of game time he has had this year. He was taken off by half time yesterday so that experiment didn’t work.

Also by bringing in McCaffrey that meant the Nicky Devereux who had played right through the championship was dropped to the bench. This then had the effect of Jonny Cooper moving to the number six position, not a familiar position to him Jonny is an brilliant player but he is no number six.

Far too often yesterday he was dragged out to the wings which created a big hole through the centre of the Dubs defence. I’m not attaching any blame to Jonny as it’s very difficult to play such a pivotal position if you don’t play it on a regular basis and players will tend to play the game as they do in their normal position hence Jonny drifting out to the wings as it’s where he normally plays.

Cormac Costello is a star of the future and one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from the underage ranks for a while,but his inclusion was just as baffling. Cormac has played most of the season as a second half substitute to devastating effect and is still developing both physically and mentally as an inter county star.

Yesterday’s game called for more experienced players due to the style of play that Donegal employ and also with how far down the road they are in terms of strength and conditioning,mental toughness and experience and it was unfair to ask Costello with the lack of starts he has had this year to make a big impact. Also with the damage he has done off the bench this year by starting him Gavin robbed himself of that option in the second half when it was badly needed. Cormac needs to start more games in 2015 to continue his development and gain more experience playing at the top level and I believe he is going to become one of the most exciting forwards to have ever worn a Dublin Jersey.

Beside the hole that was left from Jonny Cooper being dragged to the wings this was compounded by Rory O’Carroll following Michael Murphy out to the halfback line and couldn’t understand why this was allowed to continue because once Murphy won the ball and turned Rory he had the pace to get away from him and had acres of open space to run into unopposed and with the support runners either side of him the Dublin’s remaining defenders were out numbered all the time which is which led to Donegal’s two second half goals.

Once Donegal got far enough ahead they reverted to fourteen players behind the ball and it became very hard for Dublin to break them down and panic set in with Dublin players forced under pressure to shoot from difficult angles and with each wide Dublin got more desperate. Added to this yesterday was the uncharacteristic misses from dead balls from Bernard Brogan and Stephen Cluxton who both had one of those days.

Things could have been so different yesterday if when Dublin had Donegal on the ropes they had converted the two goal chances that they carved out. I was surprised O’Gara didn’t have a go himself when through and decided to pass the ball which he got all wrong. And then the brilliantly worked move which put Connolly through, I doubt Diarmuid will ever hit as bad an attempt at a shot at goal again. But as they say it’s these small margins that normally decide contests at the top level of sports.

As for things that were outside of their control yesterday,the biggest problem Dublin have is the wasteland that is Leinster and the lack of a challenge Dublin get in the provincial championship. Donegal went into yesterday’s game on the back of four tough Ulster Championship matches and a tough quarter final against Armagh which set them up perfectly both mentally and physically.

Compare that to Dublin who brushed aside Laois,Wexford and Meath with consummate ease and had no test of their mettle. And in the quarter final they came up against a spent Monaghan side that wilted after twenty minutes, again giving Dublin no challenge and in my opinion left the Dubs ill prepared for yesterday’s test. That’s not Dublin’s fault as they can only play whatever team is in front of them. But until the teams in Leinster get their act together and produce decent squads to challenge Dublin’s dominance of the province This problem will remain the same each year.

Yesterday’s defeat in hindsight may be a good thing for Dublin going forward for a couple of reasons. It’s not that long ago Dublin had a similar shock defeat against Meath and the following year Dublin won the All Ireland. Firstly the players will carry the hurt from yesterday’s game into next season which will be a huge motivating factor.

Secondly some deficiencies were shown up yesterday and need to be addressed for 2015. Dublin need to find a number six as not for the first time this year a team drove straight through the middle of the Dublin defence and the solution I think is already there in the shape of Cian O’Sullivan but then that means Jim Gavin needs to find a new midfielder who compliments Michael Dara MacAuley style of play.

Jim may also need to look at how he sets his defence up as it was badly exposed yesterday and maybe playing one sweeper maybe the way to go.

This Dublin team will be back next season bigger and better for yesterday’s defeat,as they say you always learn more from your defeats,than you ever do from your victories and with a few tweaks here and there and the addition of a couple of new faces along with the hurt from yesterday’s shock defeat,they will be gunning to claim back their All Ireland title in 2015. I still believe this is a special group of players and one defeat does not suddenly make them a bad team or spent force.

Their record under Jim Gavin has been unbelievable winning back to back League and Leinster Titles and of course last Years All Ireland Title. They will be back winning more silverware next year and maybe in a couple of years from now the 31st of August 2014 may go down as another turning point in the upward curve of this squad. I for one believe it will be and can’t wait till it all begins again at the blue stars game. -Nigel


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