No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

Declan Bonner: Rain made for poor spectacle

SUNDAY’S All-Ireland Final was one of the most disappointing in recent years. It was a poor spectacle which was dominated by the incessant rain.

There can be no doubt that Dublin were worthy champions and I feel they probably would have won by more if it wasn’t so wet.

The standard of play was shockingly bad to be honest. It’s not like we haven’t encountered rain in this country before.

Advertisement

Basic ball handling errors, turnovers, and players slipping was common practise, and you do expect more from the country’s best teams.

Not that that will bother Dublin and you have to give great credit to Jim Gavin. He took stock of what went wrong against Donegal last year and he implemented a game plan that transformed them into a fearsome defensive operation, yet he still managed to maintain the team’s attacking guile.

Sunday’s decider shows that for players and managers alike, you are only as good as your last game.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice was lauded as the master tactician after Kerry defeated Donegal in 2014, but just 12 months short months later, the knives were out for him. That’s sport.

Jim McGuinness with Eamonn Fitzmaurice after the 2014 all-Ireland Final

Jim McGuinness with Eamonn Fitzmaurice after the 2014 all-Ireland Final

It’s always easy to be analytical with hindsight behind you but I thought Dublin were much better tactically than Kerry. I felt Fitzmaurice missed a trick by not starting Kieran Donaghy. He is a warrior and would have provided leadership.

He opted for the more agile Paul Geaney and he did well enough off scraps in the first half, but he didn’t get much support from his teammates.

Kerry persisted with lumping high passes in on top of Geaney in the first half. They got very little reward from that tactic and Donaghy would have at least made life difficult for the Dublin defence.

Advertisement

The Munster champions have been praised for the strength of their panel this year, but I felt they made some peculiar substitutions.

Last year’s Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue was not having his best ever game in the green and gold, but he is a matchwinner, and the Dublin defence must have been thrilled when they saw him called ashore.

Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper is a legend of the game, but he wasn’t at the speed of things last week, and spent most of his match chasing Philly McMahon. Wet weather doesn’t suit him and I thought Kerry should have attempted something different to make the dubs think about things.

The word coming out of Kerry was that Tommy Walsh was flying, and granted he hasn’t had much game time this year, but his power could have caused Dublin problems.

It wasn’t a vintage Dublin display, with Bernard Brogan and Stephen Cluxton both struggling, while Diarmuid Connolly was not at his best either.

However, it was the collective strength of the Dublin team that won them the All-Ireland. They are not dependant on any one man and six different players chipped in with points in the first half, compared to Kerry’s two scorers.

Their four-point half-time lead was substantial, and while Darran O’Sullivan brought new life to Kerry in the second half, Gavin sent for John Small and he sorted that problem.

Dublin were always that wee bit ahead and they had the class of Alan Brogan to come on and see them over the line.
There has been a lot of talk after the match about Philly McMahon gouging Kieran Donaghy and we don’t like to see that in our games.

The incident came just a few weeks after McMahon allegedly head-butted Aidan O’Shea and he has been cast as public enemy number one.

But ask any inter-county manager in the country if they would like to have McMahon in their team and you would only get one answer.

He’s a born winner and he reminds me of Tyrone’s former defender Ryan McMenamin. You wouldn’t always agree with Ricey’s antics, but he was ruthless and Tyrone were stronger for that.

If it wasn’t for his indiscretions, he would be the automatic choice for Footballer of the Year.

Granted, anybody could play corner-back for Dublin in the Leinster Championship, but when the real business came around, he was superb.

He kept Aidan O’Shea quiet twice in Dublin’s battles with Mayo, and last week, he had the ‘Gooch’ firmly in his back pocket.

However, he has also shown that he is very good going forward. He scored 1-2 in the replay against Mayo, and he curled over a vital score on Sunday.

He plays corner-back but it his opponents who play on the back foot, and as a former corner-forward myself, I certainly wouldn’t have fancied chasing him up and down the park.

Overall it wasn’t a great championship. Sure the last few weeks were entertaining, but that is not enough, and I know it is said every year, but we desperately need to restructure the championship.

Bar Ulster, I can tell you who is going to win next year’s provincial championships now. Kerry will win Muster, and Mayo will take Connacht again, while Dublin’s B team would win the Leinster Championship.

The gap is getting wider and wider and Donegal have to try to make sure we stay in that top four or five bracket.
I don’t think too many of the Donegal’s older players will step away and I think it is encouraging that no one has pulled the pin yet.

It’s interesting that Michael Murphy has opted not to be involved with the Ireland International Rules team, and hopefully Neil McGee follows suits.

Murphy has been playing inter-county football since he was 17, and there has always been something to keep him occupied during the winter whether it be schools, college or club commitments.

With Glenswilly out of the championship early, it gives him a good chance to recuperate and get the body right for the 2016 season.

CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP

We have a huge week of club action ahead of us which should service everyone’s GAA needs this week.
We have a couple of cracking semi-finals in store, and St Eunan’s – St Michael’s on Saturday should attract a big crowd.

St Eunan’s are defending champions and their players have pockets full of medals.

St Michael’s have been one of the best teams in the county over the last decade, but they haven’t reached the promised land yet. I have been involved with them over the last couple of weeks and they are a really good crowd of players.

It will be a close game and people will say that I’m being weary and playing down our chances. But the bookmakers have Eunan’s as favourites, and I have yet to see any bookie riding a bicycle!

When the sides played last year, it was a cracking game and hopefully we will get something similar on Saturday.
Kilcar and Naomh Conaill should be another great battle. These sides have met a lot in minor and under 21 games and they know each other well.

Stephen McBrearty, who will look to fire Kilcar to victory this Sunday. Photo: Donna El Assaad

Stephen McBrearty, who will look to fire Kilcar to victory this Sunday. Photo: Donna El Assaad


Naomh Conaill are favourites and that has a lot to do with Kilcar’s injuries. Patrick McBrearty hasn’t been at full throttle, while Eoin Mchugh hasn’t ben involved at all. If they are both fully fit then that will probably edge the pendulum in Kilcar’s favour.

It will be a tactical affair and I expect to see a lot of bodies behind the ball.

The two Relegation play-offfs take place as a double-header in Donegal Town on Saturday and I fancy tradition to see Ardara and Killybegs to get over the challenge of Cloughaneely and MacCumhaills repectively.

The Junior ‘A’ Championship final takes place as the curtain-raiser this Sunday and it pits a struggling Red Hugh’s against an in-form Naomh Ultan.

Red Hugh’s have had a tough time of it in Division 3, but Donal Reid has stepped in as manager and he has overseen two good championship victories.

Naomh Ultan walked through Division 4, but my own club Na Rossa gave them a good scare in the semi-finals.
The Dunkineely men edged though by a point, but I know they are missing a lot of players and I fancy Red Hugh’s to shade it.

Aodh Ruadh and Milford meet in the Intermediate quarter-final replay and I know both teams felt they had the chances to win the drawn game. They are evenly-matched and it could go right down to the wire again.

There are three very enticing double-headers down for discussion and I’d like to wish all the teams involved the very best of luck.

Having emigrated to the United States as an infant, he returned to Donegal, and Drumany, on the death of...

Bonner is favourite to replace Rory Gallagher

It's been a dark week for Donegal GAA after our senior team suffered an embarrassing defeat against Galway last...