Áine Brady from Arva gets her photo taken with Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny after the game. Photo: Adrian Donohoe.

Analysis: Dubs were on a different level

Tactics Board

This was a masterclass from the All-Ireland champions, writes DAMIEN DONOHOE.

Sometimes you just have to say that the opposition are simply better than we are. We never expected to beat Dublin and keeping it to a respectable scoreline was always going to be the task.

Since Saturday’s 19-point defeat, Cavan supporters I have spoken to are split in two camps: the ‘we should have parked the bus like Louth’ camp and the ‘well at least we had a go’ camp. As with all decisions, the full outcome isn’t known until all votes are counted and that will be when this season is over.

I personally never thought Raymond Galligan was going to set up with the bus parked for the simple reason that he hasn’t played a ‘15 men inside the scoring zone’ defence at any stage.

It would have been very difficult to implement that game plan without a lot of practice as it takes a high level of communication and concentration to execute the defensive end of the system never mind layering the attacking part on top.

You also have to look at how many times that systems has beaten the Dubs or won Sam Maguire? It won the All-Ireland for Donegal in 2012 but they didn’t play Dublin that year and in 2014, when Jim McGuinness’s side beat Dublin using that system, they didn’t win the All-Ireland.

Even still, with that limited success, many teams have tried to use it to beat the Dubs but no other team has managed to replicate it because McGuinness is simply the best at coaching the blanket defence game plan. It might allow you to keep the score down, but you won’t beat Dublin with that system without practising it consistently over a long period of time.

The only other times that Dublin lost a championship game and the All-Ireland since 2014 was to Mayo and Kerry and neither set up very defensively.

They stepped up and for the most part went man-for-man and had a go. Galligan has stated enough times in interviews that this is the way he wants his team to play so Saturday was an opportunity to gain experience and take a measure of where we are when playing that way against the best.

So what did we learn from Saturday night? We know we have a distance to go to be at that level and in order to close that gap, we need to be playing top teams more often.

Getting up to Division 1 in the league would help the development of this new group of players and it is a new group.

In the last two games, Galligan has handed out five championship debuts and a total of seven this year.

Brían O’Connell made his second championship appearance against Monaghan this season. We are in the middle of a changing of the guard, and we’ve played only Division 1 teams in championship football this year. This is extreme learning and bound to be tough on the group but with persistence, it could pay off.

In sport and especially team sport, consistency of performance is the most difficult thing to achieve and yet this Dublin team manage it. They don’t take anyone for granted, they show up, they do their job and they do it at a faster pace and for longer than almost everyone.

There is no sense of comfort in the Dublin team, which flies in the face of their dominance. Each individual looks like he’s constantly pushing himself in every moment. You don’t see Dublin players standing up gesticulating if something doesn’t work out and you don’t see them slowing down the ball. Even when they are probing a defence, the ball is still moving at speed. It’s rare they have to take a solo or a hop of the ball because there is nearly always a man in a better position.

When Dublin were 15 points up and there was 70:09 on the game clock, they won a line ball on their own 13-metre line. Twenty-one seconds later, Colm Basquel was kicking the ball over the bar at the other end and was eaten out of it by his teammate because he didn’t give the ball to one of three players ahead of him which could have led to a goal chance.

A few minutes before that, after Jack McCaffrey was introduced, we were on the attack at the town end. The game was over as a contest when Oisin Brady gathered the ball in the right corner inside the 13-metre line.

The angle was tight as Brady wound up to take the shot but a sprint and diving block by McCaffrey denied the score. That ability to not let the scoreboard dictate their level of effort sets this Dublin team apart for the rest.

They consistently hit their numbers. Last week I worked out the averages of some of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of Dublin this year to set targets for Saturday: “If we can manage to keep Dublin to less than 30 shots and less than 19 scores our defence will have been better than average. If they concede no goals they will have done better than eight of the 10 teams Dublin have faced this year.” Unfortunately, we managed none of these as Dublin had 33 shots, scored 22 times and hit the back of the net five times.

“In attack,” I wrote, “if we get more than 19 shots away and score more than 14, we will be better than average.” We did get more shots away than the average with 25 but fell just short of the average score with 13 points.

It’s going to sound strange, but I came away from the game Saturday night a lot more positive than I was leaving Castlebar.

This wasn’t an under-performance by us, it was a masterclass by Dublin. We had a go at it and came up well short but there are areas that can be targeted to make improvement in the short term.

We increased the number of shots we took and our conversion rate from the Mayo game against a much better team. There were still four or five missed chances that the player will be disappointed with as they were more than capable of scoring them. In the defence, Brían O’Connell held Con O’Callaghan scoreless and Luke Fortune kept Paul Mannion scoreless from open play. Another positive was Ryan Brady’s cameo off the bench; on his introduction to championship football, he handled a lot of ball and showed some of the potential he possesses. Darragh Lovett’s desire to go at the Dublin defender and try to create a goal chance before his shot went over the bar had the Dubs scrambling, too.

The biggest positive for me was Oisin Brady’s performance. He finished with seven points, three of which came from open play  - and the first was a beauty as he squared up John Small before turning him inside out and curling over on his right.

He also had a 100pc free conversion rate which we know was very rare in Cavan before Paddy Lynch took over the free-taking duties.

So now it is as it was foretold. It all comes down to the Roscommon game to progress to the preliminary quarter-final.

It’s proper old school knock-out football and so much rides on this game for both sides. It’s winner takes all and for the loser it’s a long way back to this stage - and there are no guarantees of being here again.