There was a little cameo during yesterday’s televised match between Dublin and Monaghan which illuminated clearly why Dublin are unlikely this year to end their long(ish) wait for an All-Ireland. It occurred just after Mark Vaughan had correctly been sent off for a crude challenge on Monaghan’s Damien Freeman (the Indo’s report today captured perfectly the moment that Vaughan sealed his own fate). The incident in question happened as Vaughan trudged off, with Pillar Caffrey coming over to him and shaking his player’s hand.
Dublin were four points down at this stage and Vaughan’s stupidity had just made his team’s job all that more difficult. Caffrey would have been well within his rights to give his no. 12 a good root up the hole or a clip round the ear. He should certainly have showed his displeasure at Vaughan’s selfish moment of petulance. Instead, however, Pillar commiserated with his man and then after the match went on to moan about the ref – Bryan Cullen, already on yellow, was also sent off near the end for effecting an Aussie rules kind of tackle on one of the Monaghan lads so Dublin ended with just thirteen players on the field – instead of reflecting on what his own players had done. While he was at it, he could also have had a think about his own role in how the incident developed, as any fool could have seen that Vaughan – who had been booked and ticked in the first half – wasn’t going to stay on the field for the full seventy minutes yesterday. The fact that Vaughan (who clearly wasn’t on his game) appeared at all for the second half showed just how astute the Dublin bench is.
Now, it must be said that the Dubs played their best football yesterday after Vaughan had gone but their sideline jefe can take precious little credit for that. Key men such as Jayo, Keaney, Brogan, Ryan and Cluxton all had a part in the way that Dublin turned a five-point deficit into what was, at one stage, a four-point lead (which they quite strangely failed to hold onto at the end). It was, however, screamingly obvious that all of Dublin’s leadership and its tactical acumen were on the pitch and not on the sideline.
It is undoubtedly the case that Dublin have plenty of good players and, in their role as one of the main bulwarks against a possible Kerry three-in-a-row, I wish them well in their Championship endeavours this year, (unless we end up facing them, of course). However, their lack of basic intelligence on the sideline will surely count against them if and when it comes to the crunch. If Pillar can get it so badly wrong in Parnell Park in March, there’s no reason to expect he’ll call the shots any better in Croker later in the year when the stakes are far higher. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to claim that the man reason why Dublin are unlikely win the All-Ireland this year is because Pillar Caffrey is still their bainisteoir.