Joe Brolly

JOE BROLLY: Derry not for Sam

DUBLIN’S opening two boring defeats in the league prompted me to ask the question, “Why won’t they kick the ball in to Con O’Callaghan?” For those games, he was a peripheral presence, traking back and tackling round the middle third, taking a handpass at the last minute in a crowded defence. What a waste. Like hiring the prize stallion from the stud and using him to give children donkey rides on the beach. Or asking Maradona to go in nets.

I was chatting to his father and mother at a Gaza peace march in Dublin after the second league game and they were equally frustrated. “Why won’t they give him early ball?” I asked his dad. “No comment,” he said. For the third game, against Roscommon, they sent him back to stud and the boy did what he does best. He rode Roscommon (seven points), then Kerry (3-4). No more donkey rides for Con.

Derry were so afraid of Con, and Dublin’s attacking power that we spent the whole game inside our own 45. Beforehand in the pub, when Seán Cavanagh came on the TV the barman muted him. We still have some principles in Derry. Sadly, not on the sideline.

Meanwhile, Dublin are Dublin to the core. Dessie Farrell had paid a beautiful tribute to Shane O’Hanlon last week, and in Derry, the players honoured his memory. Not that they had to push themselves. The current cliché is that we are All-Ireland contenders.

Suddenly, everyone is saying it. Everyone is wrong. As Mayo proved, you cannot win an All-Ireland without forwards. In Derry, we have one very good forward, but like me on a Saturday night, one is never enough.

I have four National League medals. The only important one was the first, because it told us we were not wasting our time. For the same reason, this game was very important for Derry. Not for Dublin, who started with only six of their All-Ireland winning team.

Years ago, over the Christmas period, I was taking drink with Kevin Cassidy and I lambasted him for what his team were doing to the game. He said, “To be fair Joe, when there’s 25 men inside the 40, its going to be hard to score.” Dublin didn’t find it that difficult. Celtic Park was quiet. By half time, Derry had accepted our inferiority. It could have been much worse, corner back Conor McCluskey’s brilliantly taken goal coming completely against the run of play. “He’s come a long way since David Clifford scored 4-4 off him in the minor final” my brother said. We went the whole first half without any forward scoring from play.

Shane McGuigan scored three beautiful points in the second half (left footers do it better) but they were neither here nor there. All they did was remind us that Shane is a top class forward. Meanwhile, Dublin were calmly dominant, scoring when they wanted to without pushing themselves.

Cormac Costello, who had his nose badly broken a fortnight ago, came on and scored a superb solo goal a la Ian Rush. A few minutes later, their wing back Lee Gannon did his hamstring. Not to worry, Jack McCaffrey can fill in for him come championship.

We normally run the legs off teams, our defenders running riot. This is not possible against Dublin. We played brilliantly last year to win Ulster and almost beat Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. When we lost, I was glad, because I believed the Dubs would have destroyed us in the final.

We are dependent on our defence for our scores and in the long run, this doesn’t work. Ask Lee Keegan.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW