Wednesday 18 October 2017

Cyril Farrell: Galway must go route one to get full value from physical attacking players

Liam Rushe will renew his battle with the Galway defence in O’Connor Park, Tullamore this afternoon
Liam Rushe will renew his battle with the Galway defence in O’Connor Park, Tullamore this afternoon

Cyril Farrell

I saw Brian Cody hurrying out of Croke Park immediately after the Galway-Dublin game last Sunday, heading off to Inistioge for the Kilkenny-Limerick challenge later in the evening.

The journey down would have been pleasant, as he certainly hadn't seen anything from Kilkenny's supposedly biggest Leinster challengers to worry him.

On the other hand, Anthony and Ger Cunningham surely spotted more than enough to keep them thinking long into the night.

Galway were lucky to get another chance after a patchy performance.

Dublin had their problems too and would have felt that after pegging back a six-point deficit to lead by three coming up to the three-quarter mark, they should have seen it through.

Why didn't they? Credit to Galway for digging in and, once they did, Dublin were knocked out of their stride more easily than would have been expected.

The big concern for Galway is why they allowed themselves to be hustled into a nine-point turnover between the 20th and 48th minutes. You don't need to check the DVD to see where the problems were.

Wing-backs David Collins and Gearóid McInerney got on very little ball, and while Joseph Cooney and Aidan Harte worked hard at midfield, they weren't exactly peppering the forwards with good deliveries.

That left Iarla Tannian as the only real supplier from the half-back/midfield area, which forced the Galway forwards to drift deeper in search of chances. A team can't function properly when that's happening.

Dublin's supply lines to Mark Schutte, in particular, were much cleaner for much of the time, although they clogged up later on.

Critical

It's easy be critical of Johnny Coen's performance in the first half, but Dublin were pinging Schutte so accurately that it would have made life very tough for any defender.

Galway need to sort out why Coen didn't get better protection. He would have expected his wing-back to be closer to him but Collins was usually further out, leaving Coen facing Schutte on his own in space.

Galway need to go for broke today. They have plenty of big men in attack so they've got to unload some aerial bombs into the Dublin goal area. Cross-field deliveries are all very fine but there comes a time when Route One is the best option, especially to a big, physical forward-line.

Dublin will feel that if they can avoid the slow start that left them 1-6 to 0-3 down after 20 minutes, they can use their energy for building a winning score rather than pegging back a deficit.

They may be right but I suspect that having snatched a draw last Sunday, the balance has swung marginally in Galway's favour.

Pauric Mahony's absence from the Waterford team may have a similar impact on the balance in the Munster semi-final. Cork's listless performance in the League final suggests they have to load quite a bit on their side to balance the scales, but that process has definitely been helped by Mahony's absence.

Apart from his free-taking accuracy, his general play was also very impressive all year, so it's asking a lot of the Waterford attack to function as well without him.

We have a good idea of how Waterford will set themselves up, but what of Cork? They played a fairly straight-up game in the League final and came up well short. Cork defenders had plenty time on the ball near their own goal, but with the middle third so crowded, there was little for them to aim at.

Derek McGrath has Waterford playing the packed midfield area system very intelligently, so if Cork return with the same shape as in the League final, they are inviting trouble. And, this time, it would have more serious consequences as it would dump them out of the Munster Championship.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his fellow-schemers won't let that happen. They might not like being forced into playing Waterford at their own game, but this is all about winning.

Losing Christopher Joyce and Lorcan McLoughlin is a setback but, on the plus side, the return of Brian Murphy, initially to the panel and now to the team, goes a long way towards compensating.

Lots of elements go into making a good defender and Murphy has them all. He's a very good man-marker, has a smart appreciation of how play is likely to develop, which takes him to the point of the action, via the shortest route.

Cork conceded a total of 5-75 in three of their last four League games - an average of 30 points. That's clearly unsustainable if they are to mount a serious Championship run.

Murphy's return will definitely bring stability to the full-back line, but obviously there's more to it than that.

It's easy to blame the full-back line when a team concedes a lot of scores, but what's happening further out?

Cork's work-rate all over the field came nowhere near matching Waterford in the League final, which was inexcusable.

Of course, if Cork win tomorrow you'll hear plenty about how they didn't really care about the League final. It's pure rubbish. How can any team dismiss a national final? And why should they?

After all, Kilkenny have dominated the Championship for the past 15 years but it so happens that they have also won a lot more League title than anyone else.

Why? Because, they understand that every game is there to be won.

I have no doubt that JBM was keen for Cork to win the League and would have been very disappointed, not just with the defeat but with the manner it was inflicted.

I expect a far more driven Cork to show up tomorrow. They will need to be if they are to match Waterford's hard graft, which has been a cornerstone of their improvement this year.

Still, an improved Cork, plus the absence of Mahony, might be just too much for Waterford to counteract.

 

Turbulence in the Laois air should not prevent a smooth landing

If a thunderstorm helps clear the air, then Laois hurlers will be breathing very healthily in O'Moore Park tomorrow.

There are two ways of looking at 'Cheddar' Plunkett's departure and return in the space of a week.

Some believe it will be disruptive, while others think it might have a galvanising impact.

Of course, if Laois lose, the former will automatically be blamed, and if they win the latter will be credited with giving them a crucial edge.

I'm not so sure either is the case. It's good for Laois that 'Cheddar' is back but, after that, the game will be decided on its merits.

I fancied Laois to win this game before the managerial bust-up and I still think they will.

Laois did very well against Galway in O'Moore Park in the last two championships, and while they were edged out on both occasions, it showed how well they can play at home when they get their game going.

Offaly are 1/2 favourites, presumably on the basis of their Championship successes against Laois over many years, but is that relevant now?

In fairness to Offaly, their Leinster Championship preparations for the past two years were influenced by being paired with Kilkenny, scarcely the draw anyone ever wants.

Offaly had a better League this year too, so Brian Whelahan will be quite confident that they can pull this one off. I have my doubts.

Wexford-Westmeath is easier to call. Westmeath have improved under Michael Ryan, but this is a big step up against a Wexford squad that's gradually forcing its way up the contenders' list.

This is the ideal introduction to the Championship for the Model County and I'm sure they will do more than enough to book a semi-final clash with Kilkenny.

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