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Thursday 23 February 2017

If we play to our potential then we should get result in Tipp

Straight Talking with Tommy Breheny

With ten minutes of time remaining and six points down on a bitterly cold afternoon in Markievicz, you would have forgiven any Sligo supporter seen heading to the heat of their cars, however for anyone that took this option, they would have missed one of the most dramatic comebacks I have seen at the county ground for a long number of years.

They say 'fortune favours the brave' and Sligo footballers endorsed this saying when earning a draw in unlikely (lucky) circumstances, with a last gasp penalty goal converted by Adrian Marren.

In preparing for big games like this, managers will try to anticipate in what way or how the opposition will set up tactically.

In this regard, Niall Carew who would better than most, know how his counterpart Kieran McGeeney would be approaching this game, having worked with him in Kildare for a number of years.

Personally, I would be surprised if Carew got what he expected last Sunday. Traditionally McGeeney would be known for his defensive conservatism but last Sunday he looked at Sligo's strengths and set-up to counter-act them.

From the first minute, it became apparent, Armagh would not be allowing Sligo to take quick kick outs or work the ball from the back to front at pace. They pushed up and were in the faces of the Sligo players imposing their physical superiority all over the pitch. In addition to this, there was a lot of holding off the ball, where they did not allow Sligo to support the man in possession. It also appeared that they were instructed to foul the Sligo players coming out of defence to prevent us building from the back, giving them time to regroup.

I felt they actually did this very well without making it easy for the referee to give out cards, as most of the fouls did not go as far to warrant one, however it prevented Sligo in moving the ball quickly.

Over the course of the game I always felt Armagh were the better team, and had two of the games' outstanding performers in number twelve Stefan Campbell and number fourteen Ethan Rafferty, both of whom caused us a lot of trouble.

Goals are big scores in games like this where both teams were matching point with point, and Sligo need to be hugely commended in this regard, as twice they fought back when the game looked like it was going beyond them, when four points down in the first half and six points down with ten minutes remaining.

This was a hugely entertaining opening league game with the large crowd treated to some excellent score taking by both teams.

Sligo always seemed to have to work harder to get on the scoreboard, and had to rely on some inspirational scores from Marren, Murphy, Coen and the immense McIntyre.

I mentioned last week that it would be vital not to give the ball away cheaply, and the importance of keeping possession when we are in control of the game.

When the Sligo management look back on this game they will identify that there is potential for huge improvement in this area.

Too many times we gave the ball away carelessly, be it high unmeasured balls into the full forward line, restarts handed back to the opposition, carrying balls into tackles and sloppy passes to our own players, with Armagh capitalising on a number of these errors.

There is no team in the country that will have a stat sheet with zero turnovers, however the successful teams will be the teams that have the least amount.

When looking back and summarising this game there is a number of positives to take out of it,

1. We have a point on the league table against a side as good as I've seen at league level in Markievicz for a number of years.

2. We got a result out of a game in which we made a lot of mistakes and didn't play to our potential.

3. We responded excellently a number of times in the game when it looked like Armagh were going to take total control.

4. I felt the youngest player on the pitch Paddy O'Connor showed great leadership qualities, always showing for the ball and taking responsibility.

5. The strength of the bench, with players of the calibre of Stephen Gilmartin, Stephen Coen, Kyle Cawley and Brian Egan on the bench, all of whom were introduced with impact gives the Management plenty of options.

6. The team showed a never-say-die attitude and never conceded the game.

Last Sunday's result was one of those draws that feels like a win, however that can't hide the fact that we did not play to the level that will be required to get something from the home of last year's All-Ireland Semi-Finalists, Tipperary.

This is a tough fixture; however, I feel the open confines of Thurles will suit the way we play, and the potential pace in the team.

If we can cut down on the number of mistakes we made last Sunday and get better ball to our forwards, I am optimistic that we can get something from this game.

I think it may be difficult for Tipperary this year after the highs of last year to repeat that form, often happening after a successful year.

Last Sunday, newly promoted Antrim had them on the ropes for most of the game, and I am confident that if we play to our potential we can make the long journey home shorter.

Sligo Champion

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