Young James McSharry in action for Killybegs in the championship game against Naomh Muire
Very few teams in any sport reach a level of near perfection; knowing when they take the field that they are so comfortable in those players around them that they can deal with any situation on any given day.
Dublin’s performance against Tyrone last Sunday wasn’t far away from perfection. In fact the Dubs this year have raised the level once again. Before anyone might think that Tyrone were just poor on the day and allowed Dublin to steamroll them without any resistance, Tyrone couldn’t get close to Dublin because the Dubs moved the ball quickly around the field, creating space for one another and always on the move, giving a team like Tyrone and many others who play the sweeper and blanket system a nightmare.
Tyrone just couldn’t get close to them because Dublin just didn’t allow it. They moved the ball with pace, both through the hands and with the boot; they supported the man on the ball and most importantly they made sure that the man in the right position to take a score received the ball. Simple stuff, no great secret in that; do the basics right and let the players play. The only difference with Dublin is they have some of the most skilful footballers playing the game in their squad at the moment. They have the physicality to go along with that; nearly all of them over the six foot mark.
One point that should be made is Dublin have changed their approach in respect of their gym work. They look a lot leaner this year and seem to have followed the All Blacks rugby team in their approach to preparation.
When you consider what Tyrone did to the rest of the teams along the way, including ourselves, you would have to ask the question how far down the ladder are we in Ulster? How far away are we in Donegal from reaching those highs again?
Dublin have an huge advantage over the rest of the country; population for one, tradition and being on a winning streak like they are now has generated huge interest with the young players in the capital.
They have also received the backing financially that most teams can only dream about, but it should be said that they have used those resources better than most. They have put huge emphasis on coaching and promoting and looking after those players that wear the Dublin jersey, at all ages.
They have put the right foundation in place and that’s what makes it scary. There is still a lot of talent to come through to join the likes of Con O’Callaghan and Niall Scully; frightening stuff.
In the other semi-final, the men from the west kept their dream alive; maybe not as polished as the Dubs, they have brought a different mentality to Croke Park this year. Even though they were approaching their ninth game of the championship they came with a freshness, a hunger and that desire that might finally end their long wait to get their hands on Sam once again.
To be fair there probably isn’t a group of players that deserve it more. While many would have called it a day, they have kept going; they have been so close to touching the Holy Grail of Gaelic football before but it was snatched at the final moment. Could it be their year?
They totally outplayed a Kerry team who were many of the experts’ favourites to lift Sam after their success in the National League final against Dublin. As many have said before me, the league means nothing when it comes to championship. Kerry looked totally off the pace; an easy passage coming through Munster and Galway didn’t give them too much to think over either. They were, in my view, fortunate against Mayo in the drawn game but were totally outplayed this time. They will come back but like Tyrone they have serious work to do if they are to reach the levels that Mayo and Dublin have set.
Mayo have grown stronger as the championship have gone on. They have found what suits them best, they have created a great team ethic with players playing for the group rather than just for themselves.
Their tackling and pace against Kerry on Saturday was a feature of their play that was not evident in the past. Indeed it could be the weapon that will upset the Dubs more than anything, if they can keep their discipline.
As the list of names keeps growing for the position of Donegal team manager, and as the clubs are going to ratify the person to the job, is it time that we gave the power back to the clubs to select the committee who put the name of the candidates forward? Anyone taking on the Donegal job should have a proven history in success at senior and underage level and have an understanding of the players coming through within the county. It should be done in an open and transparent way that leaves those who support and follow Donegal football in no doubt; the best person for the job and not someone who knows someone who can do a favour for someone else; you know what I mean.