McMahon looking for something new from All-Ireland contenders
By John Harrington
When Philly McMahon watches an inter-county football match, it feels a little like Groundhog Day for the former Dublin defender.
He sees teams setting up with the same defensive systems and attempting to transition to attack in more or less the same ways.
He’s hoping a team breaks from the pack and surprises him with something new in the All-Ireland series, but he hasn’t really seen it yet.
“When you look at all the teams in the country and you look at the way they set up tactically there's very few doing anything different, there really isn't,” says McMahon.
“The ones that I've seen doing things differently is probably Derry who have done a couple of things offensively different. But because certain coaches are popping around the counties a little bit it's kind of the same stuff you're seeing.
“Maybe there's teams holding things back and are going to eventually trial things in the group stages but I don't really see anybody doing anything different. Are Mayo doing anything different? Maybe playing O'Shea in a little bit more has had an impact.
“Kerry, I don't see anything different. I don't see Dublin doing anything different. And maybe they don't need to do anything different. Maybe they just need to be better at the things that they have and once they have that they may need to tweak things.
“Take the jersies off most of the teams and let them play a match and you probably won't know which teams they're from because they all play very similarly.
“I’ll give you an example, even Armagh, they played Antrim up in the Gaelic Grounds. They kicked this long ball down the middle, and you’re like, ‘that’s the Donegal kickout’.
“There’s a lot of regurgitating of old things, that’s okay as well. That’s good. I like that, but I don’t see any team doing anything new or different. The goalkeeper coming out is a new thing, it works for some teams, doesn’t work for others.”
Dublin might not be doing anything new tactically, but McMahon took a lot of positives from how they dismantled Louth in the Leinster SFC Final and believes Dessie Farrell’s team are good enough to go all the way this year.
“Kildare probably poked the bear a little bit and that gave the lads a bit of motivation going into the Leinster Final,” he ways.
“Was it the best I've seen them play? There's parts of it I watched and I was buzzing from it. The goal where James punches it and then they're just ruthless going straight for the black spot I think that's what we need to see with Dublin.
"Because they're going to play teams that are not going to be as open. Or they're going to be more defensive structurally and the forwards aren't really going to have those opportunities. So it was great to see that when they got the chances they took them.
“I think they have the potential to win it. But they are not at the top at the minute, no definitely not.
“I’d probably have Kerry, Mayo and Galway on a level playing field and Dublin probably just underneath them with a couple of other counties.”
In terms of that trio at the top, Kerry have now slipped down the rankings in McMahon’s mind after last weekend’s defeat to Mayo.
“I would worry about Kerry, yeah,” he says. “I would have been one of those people that was like ‘ah look the league was a bit of a blip based off them coming back late’ that we would have experienced.
“But that’s a big scalp Mayo took playing them down there in Kerry and convincingly beating them. It was one of those games where the brilliance of Clifford and a couple of other players probably kept it a bit tighter than what it should have been.
“But I was impressed by Mayo I thought they were very good and they showed a bit of steel going to Kerry and taking that first scalp. That was probably McStay’s agenda to get that first game and that will kick start their group stage.
Dublin play a Division 1 team for the first time this year in the shape of Roscommon, and McMahon believes that test will give us a better idea of exactly where Dessie Farrell’s team are in terms of challenging for Sam Maguire.
“It brings it up another level,” he says. “There's no doubt it'll bring it up another level. They'll look forward to it. They'll look to see where their standards are at, where their performance levels are on the basis of that."