STEPHEN Cluxton and Paul Durcan’s kick-outs will have a huge impact on the success of their respective sides in Sunday’s All Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Donegal, according to London manager Paul Coggins.
The highly-anticipated encounter at Croke Park will be the counties’ first meeting in the Championship since 2011, when Dublin edged a two point win over Donegal to reach the All Ireland football final for the first time since 1995.
Whilst both sides will be aiming to replicate their strength in defence, Coggins believes that this time around it’s the role of the keepers, in particular, that will prove decisive.
“Dublin are strong all round and obviously their kick outs are key. That’s where a lot of their attacks start from and you’d probably focus on how to deal with that,” Coggins told The Irish Post when asked how he might set out to stop the reigning All Ireland champions.
“Against Monaghan Cluxton did an okay job kicking the ball into the space that’s created by the outfield players because that’s what Dublin do. He can ping a ball at a distance, but that comes from years of practice and dedication.”
In this year’s Championship, Dublin have proved themselves to be strong in all aspects of their play, particularly going forward. Coggins, though believes that it’ll be up to Donegal to put pressure on their threatening back-line if they are to knock Jim Gavin’s men out of contention.
“It’ll be difficult but you’ve got to put as much pressure on those players, watch their runs and try and deal with the space that they’re creating,” he said. “Trying not to let them have too much time on the ball or let them get into their stride. I would probably push on and press up on the kick-out.
“I don’t think it’s a great idea to let Dublin run at you because I think they can do huge damage to you if you do. It’s easier said than done, of course. They’re a superb outfit.”
Jim McGuinness’ side arrive at Croke Park on Sunday on the back of a narrow one point victory over Armagh three weeks ago and a tough Ulster campaign. It is the similarities in gameplay between Donegal’s Durcan and Dublin's Cluxton that Coggins suggests will be key.
He added: “I think Durcan will have a huge bearing on the game, he’s similar to Cluxton in his kick outs and what he gives to Donegal.”
He added that McGuinness will look to the strong individuals within his team to put forward a challenge on Sunday by not only performing defensively, but by taking the game to Dublin.
Coggins expects Dublin to focus their attention on the power and strength of Donegal captain Michael Murphy, in particular, but its experienced players like full forwards Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty who are capable of taking the ball towards the opposition goal and providing a threat.
“I’d be looking at possibly playing Murphy a bit more forward than they might have done in the past at some point in the game,” he said. “I think having a player like Murphy will give any team a problem, I’d be looking to use his power and strength as close to goal as possible.
“Donegal have the bulk of the team that won the All-Ireland, they’ve lost a few players over the last couple of years and that’s tough because you’d like to have everybody there but they’ve brought in a few players. Odhran MacNiallais is playing very well too. They have players that can match up.”
It’s Dublin’s subs bench, however, that Coggins thinks can undo Donegal’s approach in two days’ time, if they choose to bring on players “who have scored more than 33 per cent of the goals for Dublin by coming on in the last few championship games.
“When you have guys coming on that are fresh I think that could give them the edge and make the difference near the end of the game."
Impact subs will also make the difference, he says, in tomorrow’s All Ireland semi-final replay between Mayo and Kerry.
The counties face each other in the 5pm clash in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds tomorrow, having played a hard fought contest at headquarters last Sunday.
Mayo captain Andy Moran added two points to the score line when he came on in the 48th minute for Alan Freeman, aiding his team in their second-half comeback.
Coggins said: “Whether Mayo start Andy Moran or bring him on as an impact sub, having guys like that to come in will be the difference for the team this year.
“Forward Michael Conroy is a hugely experienced player who can also come on and change a game.”
The London manager believes that Kerry also have the ability to send on their own “great impact subs” in Saturday’s encounter.
“Kieran O’Leary came on last week in the 67th minute and was involved in the final few scores,” he added.
Admitting that he has a huge amount of respect for both teams competing for a place in this year's All Ireland final against either the winner of the Dublin v Donegal clash on Sunday, Coggins said that he expects Mayo to have the slight edge.
He said: "I think that Mayo’s experience over the years will also give them an advantage, but I don’t think there’ll be many points between them."