Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Dunne may have landed nine points but Keating was man of the match

One of the most subjective exercises a journalist will be asked to do is pick a 'man of the match'. On Sunday, this newspaper along with most others decided that Martin Dunne's nine points were enough to give him the accolade. We were all wrong.

Before the game, it had been billed as a shoot-out between Dunne and Armagh's most gifted attacker Jamie Clarke.

The structures and formations adopted by each team rendered that redundant.

Instead, the man of the match should have been Cavan's Eugene Keating. Playing in a two-man full-forward line alongside Dunne, Keating dropped deeper to pick up possession and tortured both Declan McKenna and then Brendan Donaghy.

With so much turf to run into, all the Armagh backs could do was react and chase after Keating. When he took possession, he could aim passes into acres of space, aided by the clever runs of Dunne.

At the other end, Armagh had too many bodies in attack. Space was clogged up with Alan Clarke intercepting through balls to Jamie Clarke. When the attacker did get possession, he was immediately crowded out.

Consider these statistics. In the first half, Clarke touched the ball eight times. He spilled a high ball on five minutes that was always favouring the defender, was overturned on 13 and 21 minutes, and was beaten in a race by his excellent marker Jason McLoughlin in the 18th minute. He linked play with a pass twice and was fouled once.

He went from the 21st minute to the 43rd minute without touching leather, punctuated by the half-time break.

His first touch though was golden, knifing through the defence to score a goal that Maurice Deegan made an absolute hash of, by blowing for a foul.

He had only five more plays; fouled and blocked once each by McLoughlin, laying off for two points, and another lay off resulting in a bad wide from Tony Kernan.

Any ball that came to him, however, was ad hoc.

Compare that attack to Cavan's. Keating made an astonishing 25 plays throughout the 72 minutes. He made six passes directly to Dunne. He drew a foul four times, hit two points of his own, making up for the four wides he shot.

Perhaps his best work came with his midfield relief duties, with David Givney pushing further forward.

Keating created a point in the 50th minute by pouncing on a loose ball, he set up shots for Cian Mackey and a point for James McEnroe and right at the death he won a break ball in midfield that ended up Cavan's final score.

He was a superb link man and it is to our shame that he wasn't awarded man of the match.

Armagh need a link man. Stephen Kernan has a track record of loading bullets into the chamber for Jamie Clarke to fire while they are in black and amber stripes. Paul Grimley has to make his approach.

His future, and the future of this group of players, depends on it.

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