Sean Quigley: Dublin need to make changes
You need a good free-taker in your team; believe me, I know full well the value of it. I kick them myself for Roslea and Fermanagh and it’s a great thing to have in your arsenal, but you need to offer something from open play too.
Dean Rock has been brilliant on them for Dublin this year but, other than the semi-final against Kerry, he has been very limited from general play. You could say the same about Bernard Brogan in the final, though that is going against the grain of what he has produced throughout his career, so you need to keep him in your team.
I wonder has Rock been in a comfort zone this summer, knowing he will start because of the frees but for Jim Gavin, he has a big decision to make now considering the massive impact off the bench of Paddy Andrews. The Dublin manager might feel he has a huge decision but as far as I’m concerned, any of those six forwards should be able to kick frees, not to mention Stephen Cluxton.
I remember back in 2008 when Fermanagh drew with Armagh in the Ulster final, all the talk is that we would’ve won the Anglo-Celt Cup if we’d had a free-taker. Well we started one in the replay and he absolutely tanked and we ended up being beaten by six points. Whoever starts in that forward line needs to find a way to contribute from open play, it’s as simple as that. No one can be carried.
That’s why I’d start Andrews in place of Rock because we saw last year that the St Brigid’s man will deliver against this opposition from play when it matters. And come here, I was surprised we didn’t see Cormac Costello in the drawn game too, he’s top-class and warrants a run at some stage in the replay.
Credit has to go to Mayo for the relentless nature of their play, most particularly in the opening 20 to 25 minutes of the game. The Dubs didn’t seem to be expecting it, they were so poor and making basic mistakes over and over again. I’d say neither team could believe that the champs were five points up at the break.
Conditions were tricky so you have to cut the players some slack but it’s not a blanket excuse; look at Andy Moran, for example, the ball just stuck to him when it went inside. All the same, I felt sorry for Aidan O’Shea. He had a poor start where he dropped a couple of balls and after that was like a man trying to do something out of this world to make up for it. Just forcing it. Now to be fair, he wasn’t the only big Mayo player who was quiet because normally you’d get a lot more from his brother Seamus, and the two O’Connors, Diarmuid and Cillian.
When Aidan went for that massive point from the 45-yard line near the end of the game, he looked like a man who was over-thinking it. As a forward, I know myself that you should almost be on autopilot when you’re out there. He’s a top-class forward and it won’t take much for things to click into place, and it might all fall into place in training before the replay.
You could say the same and more for Diarmuid Connolly because he has an awful lot more in him than we saw the last day. Should he have taken that sideline shot at the end? Well look here, there’s been plenty of criticism but for me it just typifies his confidence because when the ball goes out of play, what he sees is a kick to slap his two hands around the Sam Maguire Cup.
It probably would have made more sense for Ciaran Kilkenny to play keep-ball with it but we’d be talking about Connolly for years if it had gone over. Lee Keegan was hanging out of him all day and giving him the verbals too, so you have to credit the Mayo man for keeping his marker quiet. Now as outrageous a footballer as Keegan is, no one is going to stop Connolly if he hits fifth gear. It could happen the next day.
The intensity levels of Mayo all over the field were what stopped so many Dubs getting into this drawn game, and I don’t think they ever recovered from that. Worse still, I think that complacency was a huge issue for the All-Ireland champions. They’re used to physically blowing teams away and unlocking opposition with their flowing forward play, but we didn’t see any of that.
They didn’t play their normal game, didn’t move the ball as quickly, and from experience I know it’s nothing to do with how Mayo set-up. What I remember from our qualifier clash with them this summer, they played the same way. I can’t see past that being down to complacency, but a performance like that will shake that out of the Dubs. Before the final, all the talk was about how they couldn’t be beaten, so maybe that’s why they were so lethargic.
I have fancied the Dubs all year and even though I don’t fancy them quite as much as I did, I still see blue ribbons going around Sam. By two or three points.