Three minutes of play between Down and Donegal sum up the demands of the game
It might not be pretty but it’s modern football so we must analyse it properly
Blanket defences love a stationary player. That’s all they’re looking for. When you see a team that is passing the ball laterally, it’s because the defence is keeping a screen up in front of them. The only way through is to come onto the ball with some momentum.
If you are stationary or any bit ponderous, a team like Donegal or Down just want to get one hand on you. They want to stop you up, make you turn, make you foul the ball. Before you know it, you’re gobbled up by three players. And you will turn over the ball.
McLoone made a bit of yardage with the ball but he ran into three Down players. Who those Down players were is the key here. The first tackle on him was made by Donal O’Hare, the corner forward. Then wing-forward Ambrose Rodgers and Boyle piled in.
Thirty yards from the Down goal, McLoone lost the ball and gave away a free. Forwards need to tackle, they need to work. You’re going nowhere otherwise.
29:40 – Down take the free and almost immediately win another when David Walsh tackles Conor Laverty around the neck. There is a breather for 40 seconds as Walsh is booked but then Down make a mess of it and hand possession right back. The play switches to Rory Kavanagh out on the left wing on the Down 20-metre line but he’s stripped of the ball in another gang-tackle. Down break forward but they concede a free of their own on the Donegal 45 when Declan Rooney fouls the ball...
Funny enough, the player standing over Rooney when he gave away the free was Michael Murphy. He chased all the way back and made the tackle along with Paddy McGrath. Again, forwards must work and they must tackle. In fairness, I thought Rooney was hard done by here. All the more so when Murphy starting slapping at his head as he held onto the ball.
I’d say any player, club or county, watching that would have had to laugh. Poor Declan Rooney ran all that way, didn’t get his free and then got slapped about the head four or five times by Michael Murphy while lying on the ground. You think you have it tough in life?
It just goes to show though how well-drilled these teams are. Every player is given his brief and if that means Michael Murphy covering across while Rory Kavanagh has been caught upfield, that’s what it means. You need thinking players, not just working players.
The days of the big speech and the pride and the passion are long gone. You are sending players out with specific briefs. You are making them all realise how the system is supposed to work and what their role is in certain game situations. Above all, you are conditioning them to react. I remember being mortified if I was ever blocked down in a game. I’d be so cross with myself for losing possession that I’d be distracted for a half-second and the ball would be away. With players these days, it’s factored in.