How to beat the Dubs on Sunday week? That’s a thought that’s sure to be exercising plenty of minds at the minute and so I’m delighted to welcome Digits back into the guest slot to share some ideas on this topic.
Dublin, who were playing at their best, were lucky to beat a Kerry team playing at their best. Up until seventy minutes, including McManamon’s winning goal, Dublin got scores from the following:
- Unforced errors by Kerry (pickups, dropped balls, suicide passes etc.): 0-5
- Lucky breaks (e.g. shots dropping short, bouncing point etc.): 2-1
- Excessively loose marking (on assist player): 0-2
Total scores from the above three categories come to 2-8.
Bad wides (i.e. sitters) are also relevant: Kerry had two more than Dublin.
Kerry were knackered after 50 minutes – they had old men who couldn’t keep up and started playing aimless high balls into Donaghy, allowing the Dubs more possession. Connolly, with a virtually impossible free near the sideline on the 13, was allowed to take this free 10 yards closer to the goal to kick equalising point. And of course, the biggie – neither Jonny Cooper nor Philly McMahon were given their second yellow card with 15 minutes left after a foot trip and kick in the head on Gooch respectively.
With all those factors taken into account, with the match level on 70 minutes, that’s a 14-point swing to Dublin, plus not being a man down. Even if they only got half the luck, that’s still an extra 7 points that Dublin shouldn’t have had at 70 minutes. And that was Dublin playing at their best.
Analysis of Dublin play
The way to beat any opponent is negate their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Dublin most regularly operate with a two-man full-forward line of Brogan and Mannion – Paddy Andrews comes out around the middle, which leaves more space inside. They have obvious speed in McCaffrey, Macauley, Connolly and O’Sullivan, when they are let run in STRAIGHT LINES. Connolly, Flynn and also Andrews play key roles in linking the play from defence to attack. Flynn is excellent at tracking back – the rest of their forwards aren’t really.
Defence can often be loose and sometimes undisciplined in the tackle, particularly Ger Brennan. They do not appreciate attackers running at them. They operate man-to-man, which leaves a big gap in and around the parallelogram. This can be exploited by runners. However, hold-ups back the pitch will, contrary to popular belief, mean they will funnel 13 men back into their half.
Cluxton’s accurate kickouts start their attacks, and require a man to be free.
To stop Dublin’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses, Mayo will need to:
- Go man-to-man on kick outs. Splitting players is no good as they are too accurate.
- Run at their defence.
- Have a runner off the shoulder to break through for a goal, if our full forward line gets ball inside.
- Don’t hold up the play, work it smartly up the pitch
- Tight marking, especially on Flynn, Andrews and Connolly. Curb their influence and Dublin won’t get the ball inside to Brogan easily.
- Don’t pick up needless yellows, red cards could be fatal to either side.
- Don’t foul within the 45. Cluxton is more likely to score a free than Dublin are to score from play (45% average in last 3 games). Take the risk.
- When they are running at us, hold them up as much as possible without fouling in order to enable us to put a man directly in the runner’s path. When we don’t have the ball, Keith Higgins could be crucial in this regard, to sweep back. 45-45 performance needed from him.
- Get the match ups right to enable us to do above.
My match-ups would be:
McCaffrey – McLoughlin: McLoughlin has the nous and the speed to watch McCaffrey, and the guile to outwit him. McCaffrey also packs less of a tackle, which is important for a smaller man like McLoughlin.
Brennan/O’Sullivan – Dillon: Loose marking = playermaker heaven. Also doesn’t go forward too much so less tracking back to do for older legs.
McCarthy – Higgins: Higgins will need to be 45-45, and McCarthy, while solid, isn’t Dublin’s biggest threat. Therefore Higgins nominally here.
Connolly – Keegan: Can mark tightly and rile up Connolly. Has the physique to match Connolly and Connolly won’t relish tracking Keegan all day. Will leave Connolly further from goal where he can’t cause damage.
Kilkenny – Vaughan: Kilkenny is overrated, but since Vaughan is loose, could be a risk. However, it works both ways as Kilkenny will be loose when Vaughan goes forward. See how this one develops and act accordingly.
Flynn – Boyle: Needs to be stuck to like glue, and tackled properly. Boyle is the man for this challenge and will get stuck in on him whether it’s in defence or if Flynn is trying to collect a short kickout.
Brogan – Cunniffe: I’ve gone for Cunniffe as Cafferkey is playing poorly and didn’t play well on him in most recent encounters. Cunniffe can match him for physique and Brogan won’t track him if Cunniffe bombs forward.
Mannion – Cafferkey: Mannion always stays in close to goal, and, while a tidy footballer, is inexperienced. This suits Cafferkey who, if he plays well and stays on Mannion’s left foot, should be able to break him.
Andrews – Barrett: Barrett is a tenacious man-marker who is also good at winning breaking ball. Will be good for following Andrews out around the middle, especially since we know he can break forward as well.
None of this mentions the midfield battle. The O’Sheas just need to outperform Macauley and O’Sullivan/Bastick, simple as. Tight on their kickouts, supreme on ours, link the play, stop Dublin running out of defence.
As for our full-forward line, Freeman is the only known – it’s unknown what combination of O’Connor, Moran, Conroy, Doherty, Varley or Coen will play. I’d be tempted to start Moran and O’Connor and sub them when necessary, even if this is early. Be out in front, receive the ball cleanly, give it to a runner or make a move, drift away and bang it over the bar. That’s what needs to be done, regardless of who is there. As for the frees, who knows?
Variables and conclusion
Regards the Dublin bench, if Rock comes on, Cafferkey should take him, as he’s not very mobile. If McManamon comes on, Barrett should take him. On the Mayo bench, Carolan and Feeney as well as Conroy (if he is not starting) should be certain to come on. Barry Moran and Shane McHale have also played well the last three times we played Dublin and could be in line for an appearance.
James Horan on the line needs to adapt, see problems before they happen and engage in real-time problem solving like there’s no tomorrow. And make changes that force the Dubs on the back foot and have them to think about how they are going to cope with us, and not the other way around.
As for the fans, we need to outshout the Dubs, fly our flags in a sea of green and red, not only silence but take the Hill and influence the sideline officials as much as possible.
Mayo have it within them to beat Dublin, and vice versa. If Mayo get it right tactically and perform on the day, then we should come out as All-Ireland Champions. There is no alternative.