Saturday 7 December 2019


Leinster SFC final

Dublin v Wexford

Croke Park, 2.0

WITH two potent forward lines on view, we should see flair and attacking play in Croke Park this afternoon. But the key to a Wexford win lies in them getting the space they have so far received in the championship and that won't be easy against this defensive-minded Dublin team.

Ciarán Lyng is pushing closer to an All Star award with every outing and already has 1-17 from three games. He can find gaps to shoot in an instant and is extremely accurate. He has been well supported in attack by Red Barry who has traditionally operated further out the field as a playmaker, but has been deployed to good effect in and around the square this season.

The duo are well supported by the tigerish and impish style of Ben Brosnan, who boasts a thunderous right boot, and opportunist Shane Roche.

There are concerns about their full-back line, though, and this is where Dublin can win the game. While Dublin's own half-back line and midfield has been poor, their last line of defence has been impressive. And at the other end, they've been motoring well with Diarmuid Connolly supporting Bernard Brogan to decent effect. Brogan remains a deadly goal threat and he'll go for one early today. With the proper supply of ball, primarily from brother Alan (pictured), it's hard to see how the Wexford full-back line will nullify his menace.

The underdogs have received some handsome beatings from the Dubs in the past but today won't be another humbling experience. Wexford have nothing to lose and we expect them to re-jig their defence with captain David Murphy more than likely picking up Brogan from the start. Brian Malone could move further out the field, while Roche and Lyng could be located closer to the Dublin square to pick off a goal or two.

It's a credit to Jason Ryan that Wexford haven't followed the likes of Sligo, Fermanagh, Louth and Limerick, counties who once threatened a breakthrough, only to fall by the wayside again. This could be a thriller. Wexford's confidence is up and they won't buckle easily. Dublin to win, so long as they don't treat their opponents lightly.

Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, P Conlon; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan; D Bastick, E Fennell; P Flynn, A Brogan, B Cullen; E O'Gara, D Connolly, B Brogan.

Wexford: A Masterson; J Wadding, G Molloy, B Malone; A Flynn, D Murphy, A Doyle; D Waters, R Quinlivan; S Roche, C Lyng, B Brosnan; C Morris, E Bradley, R Barry.

Verdict: Dublin

Munster SHC final

Waterford v Tipperary

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4.0

WITH Brian Gavin in charge of this final, we are almost guaranteed an open, commonsense refereeing approach; something that is sorely missing in the hurling championship this year.

Gavin will let things flow before showering yellow and red cards on players -- he understands that a hurling match doesn't need a whistle-happy match official in the opening 10 minutes. While the referee likes to let the game develop a natural flow, the next thing is whether Waterford's defensive tactics will allow this Munster final evolve into its rightful disposition.

Over the years, we have seen some heroic encounters at this stage of the season but with eight or nine Déise men expected behind the ball today, their system might not allow for the most open of encounters. They will be intent on tying down a prolific Tipp attack that has shot 39 goals in their last 13 championship games, 23 in their last eight.

Eoin Kelly looks hungrier and fitter than expected for the time of year, last year's impact sub Seamus Callanan is a man with a point to prove, while Lar Corbett remains the game's most menacing goal-seeker. With 21 championship goals, he is now Tipp's all-time leading net-buster.

However, this team will openly admit that the industry and character of Patrick Maher is what makes them tick. Tipp are always prone to lapses in concentration -- which is likely to happen again today -- but Maher's policy is to pursue every ball, lost or not.

John O'Keeffe hangs onto his place in defence with the fit-again Brendan Maher ready to play a part from the bench. Maher's introduction should boost his team if they are flagging at any stage.

On the other side of the fence, will John Mullane, Pauric Mahony and Shane Walsh manage up front on their own while most of their team crowds out the Tipp attack?

Eoin McGrath is back in for his industry in favour of Maurice Shanahan and the Mount Sion man will cover a lot of ground, but he's not a prolific scorer.

Mullane (pictured) is still their main man, averaging 0-5 from play every game over the duration of his career and fresh from 2-2 against the Shannonsiders. His consistency and excellence rolls over from year to year.

Full-back continues to be the biggest problem for them. Wayne Hutchinson is injured but was likely to lose out anyway. Liam Lawlor made good progress at number three last season, but he is overlooked in favour of Jerome Maher who featured earlier in the season but now makes a championship debut. All the talk, though, is that he will take up residence in the corner and Brick Walsh will drop back with Kevin Moran at centre back.

Declan Ryan will want a Munster title and a direct route into the All-Ireland semi-final. His team is still a long way from where he would like them to be but today is a chance to move up through the gears. If they do that, Waterford will struggle to stay with them.

Tipperary: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; J O'Keeffe, C O'Mahony, Pádraic Maher; G Ryan, S McGrath; S Callanan, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; E Kelly, John O'Brien, L Corbett.

Waterford: C Hennessy; D Fives, J Maher, N Connors; T Browne, M Walsh, K Moran; S Molumphy, R Foley; E McGrath, S O'Sullivan, P Mahony; J Mullane, S Walsh, B O'Sullivan

Verdict: Tipperary

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