Tuesday 18 June 2019

Tribesmen must go on offensive – Kernan

Targeting Dubs' strengths is the way to go, argues former Galway boss

Galway need to get quick ball into Damien Comer – here being chased by Dublin’s Emmet O’Conghaile (left) and James McCarthy in the NFL clash – if they want to win on Saturday, according to Joe Kernan. Photo: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
Galway need to get quick ball into Damien Comer – here being chased by Dublin’s Emmet O’Conghaile (left) and James McCarthy in the NFL clash – if they want to win on Saturday, according to Joe Kernan. Photo: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Galway must remove the handcuffs and take on Dublin aggressively and systematically if they are to have any chance of derailing the four-in-a-row train on Saturday evening (5.0).

Monaghan need to bring more variety to their game against Tyrone on Sunday to maximise their prospects of qualifying for the All-Ireland final for the first time in 88 years.

Those are the assessments of former Armagh and Tribe boss Joe Kernan, one of the most decorated managers in GAA history, as he looks ahead to two semi-finals involving the four most consistent teams in the country this season.

Neither Monaghan nor Tyrone are provincial champions (Donegal won the Ulster title), but their overall results in league and championship matches puts them ahead of Declan Bonner's crew on the overall consistency table.

It sets the scene for an intriguing weekend, which Kernan believes will end with Dublin and Tyrone facing into a first All-Ireland final clash for 23 years.


Kernan was stunned by Galway's listless performance against Monaghan last Saturday, when they lost by eight points in what was only their second defeat of the season.

"It wasn't just a few players who didn't function - it happened all over the field. They put no pressure on the man in possession, allowing Monaghan to be patient as they probed for an opening.

"When you do that, it has to end badly. All the team in possession has to do is bide their time and wait for the opening to come, which it always will. Galway allowed Monaghan to dictate everything.

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"If they do the same against Dublin, they have no chance, but obviously they will bring a lot more intensity to this game. They had been doing it all year so I suppose we have to give them the benefit of the doubt over last Saturday. It was just one of those days that got away from them," said Kernan.

Galway will become the 15th county to play Dublin in the championship since their last defeat against Donegal four years ago, so they have a wide variety of templates to work off.

Obviously none worked fully, but Mayo came close on four occasions, drawing two and losing two by a point.

According to Kernan, Mayo managed that by attacking Dublin's strong points, rather than trying to contain them, and he believes that Galway must do something similar.

"They need to be aggressive on Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs. Push up and press them. Try and frustrate him. If you allow him to pick out a man and start defending from there, you are giving Dublin the initiative and they'll exploit it. If you force him to go long, you have a chance, provided your midfielders - and those coming out into that area -work hard enough. Galway also need to target Dublin's playmakers, especially Ciarán Kilkenny.

"So much goes through his hands so you have to make sure he's not allowed settle in possession, eyeing up his options and giving colleagues a chance to get set around him," said Kernan.

He was impressed by how Galway engaged with Dublin for three-quarters of April's league final, but could not understand why they didn't push forward more often when they had the wind advantage and an extra man.

Niall Scully was sent off after 50 minutes, at which stage Dublin were leading by two points, but despite the numerical handicap they finished stronger, winning by four points. "It was a great chance for Galway to push up and really test the Dublin defensive set-up. Instead, they allowed Dublin to dictate possession, which they will do all day, every day, if they're let.

"You'll hear people saying it's a choice between going on all-out attack or staying defensive when you play Dublin. It's not. You can mix both, just as Dublin do. Defend when they've the ball, attack when you have it - and quickly. Galway must get the ball into Damien Comer. Get Shane Walsh to use his pace, not to try and beat two of three men because anyone who tries that will be swallowed up.

"But he is capable of beating any defender in a one-on-one, so the support has to be right beside him. Galway have the forwards to trouble Dublin but only with quick, direct ball. They have to take off the handcuffs and go for it when they have the ball.

"There's no point setting up to run Dublin fairly close without giving themselves a chance of winning. Dublin will still probably have too much for them but at least they will have done all they could," said Kernan.


It would be difficult to convince anyone in Monaghan that drawing with Kerry in a game they should have won offered any upsides but Kernan believes that was the case.

"If they had beaten Kerry, they would have been in the semi-finals irrespective of how they fared against Galway, so they might not have been as focused. Instead, they knew they had to perform in Pearse Stadium, half the county went with them and turned it into a great occasion.

"Winning has given them huge momentum. They have a confidence and a spirit that few can match so they'll relish the Tyrone challenge.

"It's hard to find fault with anything Monaghan are doing but one area where I think they could be a little cuter is when they win a free around the middle. They usually wait for Rory Beggan to come out to kick it, when a quick delivery inside might be better.

"When you have Conor McManus - one of the best forwards in the game for several years - quick ball causes havoc among defenders. A small bit of variation would help Monaghan at times," he said.

Kernan can see familiar signs from Tyrone's best days in how they've improved since losing to Monaghan in Ulster and later coming so close to being knocked out by Meath. "The nearer they get to the All-Ireland, the tougher and more ruthless they usually become," said the Crossmaglen stalwart. "That didn't happen against Dublin last year but everything went wrong that day."

"They're much better at breaking quickly from defence now and it's showing in their scoring totals. Neutrals would love to see Monaghan get into the All-Ireland final at last, but I have feeling Tyrone might just edge it."

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