In a game that saw tempers flare and quality at a premium, Dublin turned in a dismal display on Sunday to escape with a second chance to retain their All-Ireland crown early next month.
Jim Gavin’s side went into the final as red hot favourites to halt Mayo’s charge for the Sam Maguire after an impressive victory over Donegal and a classic match up against old rivals Kerry in their semi-final fixture. In truth, the Dubs never showed up on the day with a mere handful of players turning in performances of any real quality.
Johnny Cooper, Cian O’Sullivan, Brian Fenton and the impressive John Small delivered for the men in blue and it was some of their more senior or presumably consistent stars that seemed to go missing on the big occasion. All of which leaves Gavin with a couple of dilemmas as he prepares to go to battle once again on October 1.
Here are two changes that Jim should make:
Paddy Andrews for Bernard Brogan
I know it’s Bernard Brogan and he’s done so much for Dublin GAA but it’s now the right move to make for the team. Brogan had a very good year in 2015 but, unfortunately, that form hasn’t translated to 2016 as the Plunketts man has struggled and was rightly withdrawn midway through the second half on Sunday. Bernard is a celebrity, some say he simply can’t be dropped, but I can only imagine the devastating effect a fired up Bernard Brogan could have coming on in an All-Ireland Final!
Andrews as a replacement is no weakness. Paddy came on in the first half for James McCarthy, who was black carded, and scored two points from play at times when Dublin crucially needed them the most. The St. Brigids man has a wealth of experience and was key in his county’s 2013 and 2015 triumphs. A similar player to Bernard, Paddy won’t lack in attacking threat and will very much be a headache for the Mayo defence.
Paul Mannion for Paul Flynn
Many have questioned Paul Flynn’s inclusion in the Dublin team of late. Once Dublin’s most consistent player, winning four All Stars in a row from 2011 to 2014, he has struggled with injury problems in 2015 and 2016. Flynn is a terrific player but people forget that the Fingallions man is 30 years old and has been involved with Dublin for over six years in perhaps the most physically demanding role in Jim Gavin’s side.
Flynn’s impact on Sunday was minimal and perhaps it would be a positive move to start Paul Mannion, with Diarmuid Connolly more than capable of filling the void at wing forward and Mannion himself moving inside to his more natural and capable position of full forward. He has impressed this year with a string of strong performances in the National League and has also made a big impact off the bench in the Championship.
Among others, David Byrne had a poor enough game in his first All-Ireland final but the prospect of a replay would be perhaps less daunting for the 22-year-old. Michael Fitzsimons and Darren Daly are reliable and capable reserves if Gavin feels otherwise.
Kevin McManamon and Dean Rock were also players who were slightly below par on Sunday. Dean’s importance as a free taker has been affected as a string of wides seemed to significantly affect the Ballymun Kickham’s corner forward, while McManamon also seemed slightly distracted by pre-match tensions in what was his first All-Ireland final start for the capital.
Gavin Quinn, Pundit Arena
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