Shocking tally

Published Monday, 29 August 2011
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Who would have thought it? Manchester United scoring the same number of times against Arsenal as the winning team in an All-Ireland Football Semi-Final.

Eight scores is a shocking tally to win a game played in the wide open pantheon of Croke Park.

To put this statistic into perspective, the winning teams in last year's semis, Cork and Down, scored eighteen and nineteen points to win their respective games.

I'm not sure about semi-finals, but you have to go back as far as 1952 to find a team who won an All-Ireland Final (Cavan) by amassing a score of just single figures.

I'm not having a go at Donegal, as they no doubt felt they were adopting a strategy best placed to beat a very strong and talented Dublin team.

In fairness, they recognised Dublin's superior firepower, and set up a game-plan that allowed Dublin the ball in certain areas, but ensured they were swarmed en-masse when anyway near the goal.

More or less what they have done all year, but with more men behind the ball and less forwards left up.

The lethal Dublin Full-Forward line who kicked fourteen points from play against Tyrone couldn't register a single point between them.

But it was sad to see defensive tactics dictate a game to such an extreme. Bernard and Alan Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly and Michael Murphy are some of the best forwards in the country, yet all of them played peripheral roles.

You won't hear the Donegal Captain complain though, as his manager's new way of doing things has brought success to a team who had only ever befriended failure.

Man to man, I reckon Donegal would have been beat out the gate. But when you play with just one forward inside the opposition '50', it means less kicking and more running, which demands an inordinate level of fitness and energy- almost impossible to sustain for 70 minutes.

I felt sorry for Michael Murphy as he never got the chance to play close to goal where he may have been more effective, particularly when the game opened up in the last 20 minutes.

The loss of Karl Lacey to injury was a hammer blow to Donegal, and the introduction of Kevin McMenamin brought fresh pace and energy to the Dublin attack.

These events happened within minutes of each other, and both had a significant impact on the outcome. Many will point to the sending off as the turning point, and had Donegal won the game, no doubt people would have said the extra man made the difference.

In reality it had little bearing, unless, like me, you believe the referee copped out of awarding Donegal a free to level the game, purely because he had sent off a Dublin player.

The loss of Lacey and the sloppy interchange between Murphy and Hegarty which lead to the 'Dubs' equaliser, were more tangible reasons for Donegal letting the game slip from their grasp.

Like most people outside of Donegal, you probably have contempt for how the Tir Conaill men played the game this year.

But they weren't breaking any rules, so for now you can rest in the knowledge that in three weeks time Dublin and Kerry will both play an offensive game to try and outscore one another. Reminiscent of earlier glory days, a cracking All-Ireland Final it should be.

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Kevin Madden
Kevin Madden

GAA expert Kevin Madden was one of Antrim's star footballers until his career was cruelly cut short by illness in 2006 when he was just 29.

Since then he has enjoyed a successful career in management.

He was number two to Derry manager Damian Cassidy in 2009 and 2010.

Before that he acted as assistant to former Antrim manager Liam Bradley with Glenullin.

Kevin, who is from Portglenone, now manages another Derry club side The Loup.

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