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
The game is going to be messy. You are going to be caught in possession and turned over. But the same goes for your opponent so don’t be throwing your hands on your head. Either get the ball back or get back into your position to set up the system. Players now are relentless. They get up and do their job instead of bemoaning what just went wrong. That takes serious mental capacity.
31:00 – Donegal give away a line ball at top of the left which Down quickly transfer across the pitch. Rooney plays a one-two with Rodgers before hitting a long pass out to Benny Coulter in the left half-forward position. Neil McGee, Kavanagh, McGrath and Bradley get sucked out to Coulter, leaving space through the middle for Poland to run into...
The score to cap it all off was so well taken by Poland. He picked the ball up on the 45 and headed for goal. He came at pace – no stationary player here – and he easily broke Bradley’s tackle. McGrath and Frank McGlynn came sprinting to cut off the space but they had spotted the danger too late and Poland skipped past them both with one sidestep. He cut to the right and split the posts from just outside the D to bring it back to two points.
That’s the thing people forget when they look at this style of football. All the tackles and turnovers and work-rate mean nothing if you don’t have the players to finish it off. In the end, for all the talk about defences, these games are won by getting your best players in a position to score points. Down were just caught too many times with the wrong players in the right parish. Look at how many shots they left short.
The game is about more than who has the best blanket defence. It’s about improving your forwards so that they become reliable each time they shoot. When you see Colm McFadden sticking over points like he did on Sunday without a second thought, you can see the amount of work that has gone into his score-taking. He was always a talented footballer but now you know the ball is going over the bar when he shoots. They had four wides in total on Sunday. And none in the first half when they were building a lead.
We all love traditional football and if I’d my way every game would be about high fielding and one-to-one battles and all that old fashioned stuff. But the game has changed and we can’t dismiss it. Not when there is so much thought and so much work gone into making it the way it is.