Friday 22 September 2017

Lessons of drawn tie crucial in search for solutions

Both Kilkenny and Tipperary had lots of positives and negatives to consider over last three weeks

7 September 2014; Paul Murphy, Kilkenny, in action against Patrick Maher, Tipperary. GAA Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kilkenny v Tipperary. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
7 September 2014; Paul Murphy, Kilkenny, in action against Patrick Maher, Tipperary. GAA Hurling All Ireland Senior Championship Final, Kilkenny v Tipperary. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It used to be an article of faith in hurling and football that a replay rarely replicated the shape of the drawn game.

However, that theory was blown apart last year as Clare and Cork carried on where they left off when they re-grouped for the second attempt to settle the All-Ireland final.

Cork scored the same amount (3-16) in both games, only to lose out to Clare, who increased their return to 5-16.

Will today's replay be a continuation of the scoring blitz of three weeks ago, or will the tweaking by both camps in the interim re-design the entire pattern? Here are ten areas that both sides will have reflected on as they pursue every little advantage.

1 MIND YOUR HOUSE

It was 3-1 to Kilkenny in goals three weeks ago, but both sides could have had several more.

Tipperary had penalties in either half, neither of which yielded even a point. There were other goal chances that weren't exploited either.

Seamus Callanan ran out of support as he galloped in from the right wing early on; 'Bonner' Maher over-hit a handpass to Callanan later on in the first half. Lar Corbett hit the woodwork in the 41st minute; Callanan was blocked as he let fly for goal in the 42nd minute; and Gearoid Ryan pointed from close range when he should have hit the net.

Kilkenny didn't miss as many goal chances but Colin Fennelly should have scored in the ninth minute but tried a pass to his brother Michael, which miscued. TJ Reid came close to getting a flick on the ball after Darren Gleeson took too long to get it under control and later forced the Tipp 'keeper into making a good save.

In the second half, Colin Fennelly passed rather than shooting for goal on one occasion and Eoin Larkin was seconds off beating Gleeson to a through ball. The final score could easily have been Kilkenny 6-22, Tipperary 4-28. For whatever reason, both teams had serious security problems.

2 GOALS WIN GAMES

Not always. Kilkenny scored three goals in the drawn final but still didn't win. That's unusual for All-Ireland finals, although it changed over the last two years. It happened to Clare in the draw with Cork, and to Cork in the replay.

Galway found that three goals weren't enough to beat Kilkenny in the 2012 replay but, before that, no team had lost a final after scoring three goals since Antrim (v Tipperary) in 1989. Prior to that, Limerick (1980 v Galway) were the last to hit three without winning.

Despite scoring only one goal, Tipperary came within Hawk-Eye's glint of winning three weeks ago. If they had, it would have been the first final since 2006 (Kilkenny) where the winners landed only one goal.

3 POINT TAKEN

Only twice in All-Ireland final history have teams shot over 25 points. Kilkenny hit Waterford for 3-30 in their easy win in 2008 but Tipperary found that 1-28 wasn't enough to see them home in the drawn game this year.

If Tipperary were told in advance that they would score 28 points (plus a goal) they would have assumed that Liam MacCarthy was Thurles-bound.

4 ACCURACY

Can either side possibly repeat their radar-accurate shooting? The wides tally was 6-4 to Kilkenny, who had all their misses in the first half, during which Tipperary shot one. Probably never before in All-Ireland final history has only one wide been shot into the Railway End goal.

5 DISCIPLINE

The return from frees reads: Kilkenny 0-6, Tipperary 0-4. That's only 16pc of the total. Two factors applied: good tackling and a lenient referee. Barry Kelly awarded only 20 frees (10 each), which made for a free-flowing game. Quite whether the rules were applied to the letter of the law is a different matter.

Brian Gavin referees today so expect plenty to be let go too in the new hurling dispensation, where referees appear to be obsessed with keeping the action moving. Mind you, Brian Hogan might not agree, having been harshly penalised by Kelly for the late free which nearly won the game for Tipperary.

6 DEFENSIVE TREMORS

It has been an unusual season for the Kilkenny defence, having twice conceded a total of 31 points (5-16 v Galway, 1-28 v Tipperary) without losing either game.

Kilkenny are usually very good at tight marking, blocking the channels and applying a well-organised collective ethic, but the system broke down in the wild and whirling maelstrom of the drawn game.

They were caught cold for the three late goals which earned Galway a draw in the Leinster semi-final on a day they really thought that the task was completed.

It was different against Tipperary, who troubled them for the full 70 minutes, especially down the middle, where Bonner Maher and Lar Corbett had fruitful times, while John O'Dwyer bothered them everywhere.

Memo to Tipperary: Galway unpicked Kilkenny's central defensive locks in the drawn 2012 final but not in the replay.

Kilkenny will jam the approach routes more solidly this time.

Tipperary had their defensive inadequacies too in the drawn game; indeed if more of the Kilkenny forwards had brought their A game, the return would have been much higher than 3-22.

Tipperary have conceded 11 goals to Kilkenny's nine in six Championship games this year, with Galway accounting for nine of the combined 20.

7 ATTACK DOGS

Both forward lines would have given their defences the silent treatment if, after scoring a total of 31 points, they ended up on the losing side. Yet, the attackers will have been disappointed that they didn't score more on a day when the hurling gods tormented defenders.

More of the Tipperary forwards played better than their counterparts, but Kilkenny still had enough to rack up a huge score.

8 PENALTY POINTS

Tipperary got nothing from two penalties in the drawn game, but then neither was particularly well hit. Still, there's no doubt that the strike rate has dipped since the introduction of the rule change to prevent the striker being within 14/15 metres of goal. Will either side opt for a point if they are awarded a penalty this evening?

It's unlikely, unless the scoreline make it a judicious choice. Scoring a goal from a penalty may be harder than in the past but it still offers a great opening if the ball is struck properly. After all, the fastest ball speed in the drawn game was from a TJ Reid shot which reached 110 miles per hour. John O'Dwyer reached 104mph with Tipperary fastest shot, although obviously not with his penalty effort.

9 SELF-BELIEF

It's never a problem for Kilkenny, thanks to their remarkable achievements since the turn of the Millennium.

Tipperary's confidence reserves wouldn't have been as high going into the drawn game, given their many bad experiences against Kilkenny since beating them in the 2010 All-Ireland final.

That's changed now. Tipperary matched Kilkenny in every facet of the drawn game, pumping up their confidence reserves. Meanwhile, Kilkenny know that the psychological knot they had tied around Tipperary in recent times has been loosened.

10 BENCH PRESS

Kilkenny used Aidan Fogarty, Henry Shefflin, Padraig Walsh and John Power the last day and will start the latter two today.

That means they can call on Shefflin and Fogarty again, plus, of course, Brian Hogan, Walter Walsh, Tommy Walsh, Joey Holden, Mark Kelly, Brian Kennedy, Jonjo Farrell and team captain Lester Ryan. It's an impressive option range.

Tipperary used Michael Cahill, Eoin Kelly, Jason Forde and John O'Brien the last day and have additional solid back-up in Conor O'Mahony, Paul Curran, Denis Maher, Shane Bourke and Thomas Stapleton. No shortage of power in that lot.

Irish Independent

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