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Declan Bogue: Why the All-Ireland title is still Dublin's to lose



Strong block: Stephen O’Brien is denied

Strong block: Stephen O’Brien is denied

©INPHO/James Crombie

Strong block: Stephen O’Brien is denied

Location: A secret room in The Gibson Hotel. Take a left as you come out of the bathroom and look for the modern art painting of a deconstructed Christmas dinner.

Give the wall a nudge four inches above the skirting board and it will open up. Naturally, all evidence of the room will be destroyed immediately after the meeting.

TIME: 20.00 hours, Sunday.

PRESENT: Lieutenant General Jim Gavin, Major General Jason Sherlock, Brigadier Generals Declan D'Arcy and Paul Clarke.

PURPOSE: Operation 'What On Earth Happened Out There?'

Gavin opens the meeting, welcoming all to the inquest. A pot of coffee steams gently in the corner. The room is brightly lit, with diagrams of pitches laid out on a table you could play snooker on.

Sherlock sniffles, and presses the button on his walkie-talkie. "We're clear," he says, and sound-proof walls arise out of the ground to create a secret chamber.

The mood is tense. Those assembled take off their drill tops to reveal 'Five In A Row' t-shirts that now feel embarrassing.

An enormous screen that takes up the entire back wall flickers into life. The video nasty begins.

All of the above is just setting the scene for what may have happened on Sunday night after Dublin drew the All-Ireland final against Kerry. Disclaimer: it probably didn't happen like that at all.

But if you live long enough, you get to see everything. After the tactical meltdown against Donegal in the 2014 semi-final, we thought that this Dublin team were impervious to panic. Gavin didn't panic exactly, but certainly some of the old hubris crept in.

How did it manifest itself? Well, any manager that has ever stood on a touchline will get antsy when one of his full-back line is handed a yellow card. It used to be a cast-iron rule for Mickey Harte in his pre-blanket defence conversion that a defender on a yellow would be replaced within minutes.

That guideline has been slightly relaxed - some defenders will get away with it.

But watching Jonny Cooper on David Clifford after his early yellow card was remarkable. The Kerry management mustn't have been able to believe it either and made suitable plans, as Paul Geaney dropped a little deeper and they isolated Clifford on Cooper.

They played quality ball inside to one of the most lethal forwards in the business, against a defender who constantly plays on the edge.

A second yellow was inevitable. It's case closed when someone as dyed-in-the-wool Dublin as Senan Connell said of the penalty: "It was a pull, David Gough had his eye on him and it was a penalty. That's a second yellow… The cumulative fouls were going to hurt him and they did in the end."

Everything we say about the game has to be framed in the context that Dublin played for 40 minutes while a man down. Any tactical alterations have to take that into account.

Where Dublin fell down is in how Kerry utilised their bench. The moment the news broke that Bernard Brogan, Rory O'Carroll and Eoghan O'Gara hadn't made the matchday squad, it was inevitably taken as a sign of Dublin's strength and Gavin's lack of emotion.

However, an All-Ireland final has a life of its own. Instead of Paddy Small coming on, imagine the change in chemistry inside the stadium if the crowd saw Brogan coming on alongside Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon? We can only guess that Brogan has not returned to the Dublin team the same player prior to rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in February 2018.

Gavin also needs to formulate a plan for dealing with Kerry substitute Tommy Walsh. After he arrived on the pitch after 53 minutes, the Kingdom's shape changed slightly, with Paul Murphy able to do more marking.

Walsh hit a wide when he had loads of time, struck a point straight after when it was much more difficult, set up Sean O'Shea for a point from play and, likewise, Adrian Spillane for his marvellous goal. The Dubs need to put a stronger marker on Walsh.

All that said, this was a game that Dublin really should have won anyway.

In the closing minutes, they forced Kerry into numerous turnovers. Some of them were borderline fouls, but the Kingdom retreated into themselves.

A perfect example of this was when Jack Sherwood failed to grab a loose ball high up the pitch in the closing stages.

Dublin pushed for home and had five shots in the last 10 minutes, one of which was the equaliser from Dean Rock. However, where most of the shots were taken from was questionable - Connolly tried a long-range effort which doesn't fit into the usual means in which Dublin get their scores.

It was Connolly, you might recall, who attempted an audacious point from a sideline ball towards the end of the drawn 2016 final. Dublin were a point ahead at the time and Ciaran Kilkenny was keen to get it back into play and recycle it until the clock ran dead.

Hubris might have been their undoing, but Gavin has one strong card up his sleeve; he can name the exact same team doing the exact same roles, including Cooper marking Clifford.

The players, stung by the criticism, have the perfect motivation to play better games. It's still Dublin's to lose.

Despite rumblings, Gallagher was best option for Derry

It is with some irony that the home county of Seamus Heaney found itself in the centre of a controversy that would have dominated the news cycle if it wasn't sandwiched between an epic All-Ireland final and replay.


In position: Rory Gallagher

In position: Rory Gallagher

©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

In position: Rory Gallagher


Heaney held to a truism in Beowulf: "Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done."

Last night's meeting of the club delegates in Derry painted a picture of a people's uprising.

The citizens of the clubs are sick and tired of being trampled upon, not receiving due process would you believe, from the county board.

The hill they were prepared to die on was the appointment of Rory Gallagher as manager. This was a gross miscarriage of justice, some felt. As if some dirty deal was done.

The clubs came back with a number of options, including current Under-20 manager Mickey Donnelly, former Tyrone Under-21 boss Peter Doherty, and former captain Johnny McBride with legendary forward Paddy Bradley on his coaching ticket.

Here's the fun bit. The clubs asked for an extension. It was granted. Then, they asked for another extension. Again, it was granted. Only one more name was nominated by the clubs within that time; that of Rory Gallagher.

We are playing semantics slightly, but only one of the options put forward was a Derry man.

Any offence at a manager coming from the outside is laughable when just one of four potential bosses was actually a born and bred Derry man.

And when you weigh up the accumulated experience of the candidates against what Gallagher has accrued, there is no contest.

Gallagher also brings Ciaran Meenagh, who coached the players last year and is said to be very popular with the group, and the beloved and admired Enda Muldoon as selector.

There was no storming of the Owenbeg Bastille. Gallagher is now manager. The Derry county board have got their best possible result.

Belfast Telegraph