The Latest Puzzle Easily Solved By Smart Dubs.

In a recent interview, Irish Mixed Martial Arts coach John Kavanagh spoke about how in preparation for fights he asks his fighters to view each opponent as faceless, approach them with no emotion and treat them as a puzzle of movement that needs to be solved.

In Croke Park on Saturday night, it was the first time in championship a Dublin team coached by Jim Gavin had faced a defensive system which was based on getting men behind the ball and compacting the space for the Dublin forwards.

For 24 minutes it appeared Monaghan’s plan was working, the scoreboard read three points apiece and the Leinster champions were yet to score from play.

Dublin had averaged 29 points per game in their provincial campaign but this was a different puzzle than anything they had faced and they had to work out the solution. From the start Dublin had pushed right up and stayed true to their man on man philosophy. At times this resulted in up to 25 players in the Monaghan half with the likes of Jonny Cooper and James McCarthy being as advanced as the Dublin forwards.

That meant Dublin would have to adapt from their normal kicking game as the usual pockets of space in front of the likes of Eoghan O’Gara and Bernard Brogan were filled. They began to move the ball at pace through the hands and get runners going off the shoulder directly at the goals.

The first major piece of solving the Monaghan puzzle was a prime example of this. Kevin McManamon broke a Monaghan kick out, Nicky Deveraux picked up the break and without taking a play moved the ball to Eoghan O’Gara, who in turn delivered a hand pass to the onrushing Diarmuid Connolly who skinned Kieran Duffy and placed a cool finish into the corner of the net.

Three minutes later, James McCarthy played a one two with Alan Brogan and went straight for goal, and when he was slowed by two defenders he slipped it to Bernard Brogan who matched Connolly’s finish and the dynamic of the game had changed.

Thereafter Dublin kept the foot on the gas with points from Alan Brogan, Cooper and O’Gara giving them nine ahead at the interval.

Monaghan are built to compete in tight, low scoring games and while they have quality forwards in the likes of Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes the system they play doesn’t lend itself for them to being able to chase a lead.

The second half went the same as those Leinster championship games, Dublin picked off scores, could have taken another few goals as they ran in the bench. They finished with a total of 28 points.

You could make an argument that a running system suits this Dublin team more than a kicking one. Their speed and athleticism around the middle third means that when they attack teams in numbers it is very rare that the ball carrier is stopped by one man which means when teams commit more men to the tackle it allows the Dublin player offload to a colleague in space and create an overlap.

It’s clear this Dublin team treat every opponent with the same respect as is evident by their ability to switch from a kicking game to a running game, from the comfort levels of their half backs who push right up to create and score.

Huge preparation work goes into each game plan and when the game is evolving they have the ability to call on their own knowledge to make the best decision for the team.

Dublin hadn’t faced a blanket defence before but a blanket defence hadn’t faced an attack like Dublin’s either.

Donegal will bring a more robust version in three weeks’ time but by how much can their system reduce the Dublin average?

Even if it takes 10 points off that means Dublin will still score 18 points. Can Donegal post a higher total than that?

Jim Gavin and his team will face possibly their biggest challenge to date, but you get the feeling their preparation will be the same and Donegal are just the next faceless opponents. (Irish Examiner)
Image Credit:Donall Farmer/INPHO

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