Malachy O’Rourke gloomy about prospects of Super Eights
Monaghan manager believes format will only prove of benefit to stronger counties
Dublin’s Eoghan O’Gara is challenged by Monaghan’s Dessie Mone at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
What supersedes Connolly’s imminent return is the detrimental prospect of the GAA’s new proposals driving smaller counties deeper into the mire of mediocrity.
On this last August Bank Holiday Monday before the Super Eights change championship life as we know it, that was the opinion of Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke, who believes the incoming three-year window will see Dublin, Kerry and probably Tyrone move even further clear of the chasing pack.
The GAA and their gaping disconnect to the game itself as created by winter Congress in full summer bloom. Listening to O’Rourke Saturday night, it seems like nobody bothered to consult the very people that the new format is supposed to help.
O’Rourke’s view – immediately supported by reason and logic – is that the new round-robin system will, above all else, showcase the phenomenal strength-in- depth Gavin so expertly utilises game upon victorious game.
The flip side to that is the crippling impact on a panel like Monaghan, who are reliant on a core group of six or seven players that they simply cannot afford to rotate on a weekly basis.
“If I’m speaking honestly, I think it will,” said O’Rourke in response to a question about the new structures hindering Monaghan’s valiant efforts to some day reach an All-Ireland final.
“Especially for the smaller counties with less resources, if we play a really tough game one week and we have to go out again the following week you’re probably going to have fellas carrying injuries, you might have suspensions and things like that there.
“Whereas the stronger counties don’t rely on a few individuals as much. They have stronger panels.
“You can never write anyone off and, look it, maybe I’ll be proved wrong. If you’ve a home game in Clones and things like that, that could change it, but if you’re asking me my honest opinion I think it will make it tougher.”
Monaghan’s panel, as became so obvious during this 1-19 to 0-12 emptying, will be jaded and exposed by Super Eight football. In the starkest contrast, Dublin were able to give Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn (six All Stars between them) their first championship minutes of 2017 on Saturday evening.
Gavin told the media both players had been in good form. But that’s something only the Dublin management sees from their perch in the “shadows”.
In many ways, the 46-year-old pilot has the opposite challenge to O’Rourke: keeping a man of Kevin McManamon’s stature motivated after not giving him a run in this landslide All-Ireland quarter-final.
Gavin doth protest with “one of their strongest characteristic is that sense of collective. They realise they are about the sum of their parts”.
But nobody wants to win a Celtic Cross sitting in the lower Hogan.
“Of course they all want to get game-time and as a management team we do understand that. But the players are willing, if they don’t start, they are willing to come on and play whatever part they are asked to play.
“Obviously there are some players who didn’t get game-time today, they’ll be disappointed but I know that when we go back on the park next week that they’ll be as determined as ever to represent this Dublin jersey as best they can.
“I think there is no doubt from the management’s perspective that we can see the team is gaining momentum now in the right part of the season. We’ll have to have our ‘A’ game the next day against Tyrone.”
In the past the ‘A’ game would be guaranteed by Connolly performing those arching runs onto ball before narrowing his sights to fire between tall white uprights and on into the blue.
Twelve weeks translates into years in an athlete’s lifetime. In 2008 Paul Galvin was unable to flick the switch, on return from a similar suspension, when entering the All-Ireland final against Tyrone.
The question we asked of Gavin is whether Connolly has been idle for too long or if those shadowy Dublin sessions actually provide superior conditioning to championship outings against Kildare and Monaghan.
“We’ll just have to see,” replied the Dublin boss.