NFL – One side story

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April 10th and the National Football League season has a final pairing to make the mouth water but their semi-final victories were extremely one way traffic as Kerry and Dublin easily took care of Roscommon and Donegal. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.

Kerry stroll past Roscommon

Make no mistake, the Kingdom flat out took the foot off the gas after forty minutes as the game was over as a contest. Three Kerry goals in the opening period were fatal hammer blows for a Roscommon team who unfortunately failed to perform at Croke Park. Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell will have probably learned more on this defeat than they did during the entire league campaign as their charges were overwhelmed by a Kerry team who pressed high up the pitch giving the Rossies no easy primary ball possession.

The lack of quality possession led to the likes of Senan Kilbride being starved of ball in the inside forward line, Kerry cruised to victory. The goals exposed Roscommon defensively; the lack of organization to track Kerry runners was evident in all three goals and the full back line were caught badly for the second goal. The difference in the two teams in terms of kick passing was poles apart.

As Kerry were able to find colleagues in space with unerring accuracy, Roscommon were unable to deliver ball (when won) with any quality. It is an area of play which Roscommon have to improve upon, the lack of quick quality ball to their potentially threatening inside forward line yesterday was most disappointing and made their play at times one dimensional as the kick pass option was well below the standards required.

Kerry will have learned precious little from the outing; all areas of the field were well on top throughout and at no point were the Kingdom put under any great pressure. The performance of Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan caught the eye with well taken goals and the unsung hero of the team Donnacha Walsh continues to produce performances full of work rate, running line intelligence to create space. Kerry advance to the final and another match under the belt before the Munster SFC will be most welcome for Eamon Fitzmaurice’s charges.

Roscommon have had a good campaign but their limitations were brutally exposed yesterday. Several players were overawed by the occasion (not a bad thing) and Roscommon management will need to pick the players up and try to remedy the defensive and skill set problems seen during the first forty minutes in particular. A positive league campaign, experience of playing Croke Park is a plus and provided that the panel stick together and learn from yesterday should return to HQ for a last eight outing in August.

Dublin cruise past clueless Donegal

Rory Gallagher mentioned in post-match comments that Donegal had a week off prior to this ten point loss reversal to Dublin. It may explain some aspects of an under par performance but the general tactic nous on how to breakdown Dublin defensively was more to do with tactical issues than player conditioning.

Donegal were utterly clueless on how to create space inside for McFadden and McBrearty. Their inability to look up and pick players out was evident throughout, the inclination to turn their back to goal and pass a ball back to a colleague in a standing position was the theme of the day. Dublin handled the attacking threat with little fuss.

Michael Murphy struck a peripheral figure, playing out on in the middle of the park trying to get ball but his influence for the side is in the full forward line. It speaks more on Donegal’s lack of squad depth to allow the Glenswilly clubman to move inside and cause havoc in the full forward line.

Dublin settled this contest with an early second half score burst and when Bernard Brogan struck for the goal, it was effectively game over. The lack of Donegal cover to stop Brogan exposed basic man marking problems and organizational defensive structure breakdown. All areas of Donegal’s play were second best on the afternoon; the goal concession summed the performance perfectly.

While Roscommon have excuses for their lack of performance, this Donegal team are well down the road in team development. The lack of progress and starting lineup debutantes outfield means that Donegal are looking one dimensional for opponents. McBrearty upfront was a lone figure throughout and it owed much to lack of game plan. Is Gallagher the man to lead Donegal going forward?

Jim Gavin’s charges were comfortable throughout and their forward line was industrious throughout running selflessly off the ball to create space for others. Donegal were unable to cope with the movement of Dublin throughout and it resulted in several frees conceded which were slotted over by Dean Rock. Andrews inside was a joy to watch again, his running lines are superb.

Dublin may be without O’Carroll and McCafferey but their absence were not felt yesterday, perhaps the final may shed more answers on whether these defensive lynch-pins will be a major loss come the championship.

Given that both teams could play each other at the business end of the championship, I am expecting a surprisingly open affair with both management teams keen not to reveal tactical plans leading to plenty of scores. It could potentially be traditional football; man to man marking and it would be refreshing to see when you compare that with teams content to park the bus defensively and counter-attack from deep.