Sport Hurling

Sunday 16 June 2019

Brendan Cummins: Galway need to mirror Clare’s sweeper system in Thurles replay

Tribesmen need calmer heads in attack and sharper minds in the stands

Galway’s Jonathan Glynn sees a goal chance blocked by Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy last weekend. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Galway’s Jonathan Glynn sees a goal chance blocked by Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy last weekend. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

Composure and killer instinct - if you take all the great teams through the years, those are two traits they'll have in common, things Galway were sorely lacking in Croke Park last Saturday.

While we're all looking forward to the rematch, the truth is the champions shouldn't be going to Thurles this weekend, but preparing for the final. If I'm Micheál Donoghue, I'm taking my forwards aside this week and demanding higher standards from them after not putting that game away last Saturday.

Think of the benchmark for killing off opponents, the team that would push you over a cliff then follow you down to finish the job: Kilkenny. How did they do that? They got goals.

Last Saturday Jonathan Glynn had a gilt-edged chance to stick the knife in Clare six minutes into the game but the way he went about it - showing no composure, hitting it up against the goalie - he had no chance of getting a goal.

Minutes later, he fed a handpass to Cathal Mannion whose touch let him down, and though he got a point, that left them five ahead when it should have been 10.

If Galway are to be long-term challengers like Kilkenny, they need to show more composure in those situations. Hitting 12 wides in the first half meant they went in only four up, and their failure to mirror Clare's sweeper system until the start of the second half was likely what cost them the win - Clare caught them out with overlaps as a result.

If or when they employ the sweeper system this weekend, Galway need to mirror it, and whoever they have in the stand will have to be sharper in spotting what's going on and feeding it to guys on the sideline.

I don't think Clare will start with a sweeper as it's too obvious but they'll probably start three in midfield, bringing one of their full-forwards out which will allow an extra body to crowd that area. That will leave two inside with John Conlon at the edge of the square.

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Clare need to do more of what they did last weekend, but also to communicate better in a crisis. Initially they didn't react well when they went four or five down, but they did manage to find their composure after 20 minutes.

When they get an overlap in the middle third, they have to not panic - keep going, draw the man and keep the overlap working forward because you don't have to hit the ball in early. Last week there were at least seven or eight occasions when there was an overlap and they hit it early and the ball fell short of that magic line, the 21, and it was mopped up either by the sweeper or wing-backs covering.

Years ago, after a game against Cork, I remember looking at the heat map and it was obvious they had a tactic: Paudie Maher was sprinting into the D all the time, following Aisake Ó hAilpín, and they had clearly trained that every ball would go into that same area.

If I was Clare I'd be doing the same this weekend: get the ball inside the 21 every time you deliver it and if you can't, work it through the middle until you can.

I don't expect Aron Shanagher to start but when he comes on and you have him and Conlon at the edge of the square, they have to let it in deep, not in front of them but inside the 14.

After 90 minutes last week, they should test Dáithí Burke's ankle for another hour and see how it fares down the home straight.

For Galway, the big question is whether their midfielders will sit back as deep as they did on the Clare puck-outs. Last weekend they gave away too much room around the Clare '65 for Tony Kelly. It's their habit to sit back, but will Galway fix that or will Clare keep exploiting it?

Donoghue's first big decision has already been made. He had to name his 26 players by 9am this morning and no changes for outfield players are now allowed. That means if he's taken a chance on Gearóid McInerney, Adrian Tuohy and Conor Whelan to pass fitness tests and they don't, he could easily be togging only 23. That could put them in serious trouble.

And they'll need their bench to be at full strength to win this. I think Niall Burke will start this time but I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Concannon does too because the Cooneys are struggling for form. Galway will need a better foothold in the half-forward line so Glynn and Burke out there might be a better solution this time.

As for Joe Canning, he does a huge amount of damage between his own '65 and the halfway line and he's not a conventional centre-forward playing at 11 like Jonathan Glynn.

The introduction of a sweeper drew him back into the Clare half of the field last weekend; and they had him where they wanted him because he wasn't as involved plus they had the cover of the spare man to work the ball out.

He needs to get on balls coming from deep and use his hurling brain from there.

For Clare, Tony Kelly sat deep last weekend which I think he should do right from the start because that corridor of uncertainty around the middle is where they'll make the most amount of hay against Galway.

It's a coin-toss game but when push comes to shove, Galway should be able to make the correct decisions this time. I think they'll have enough to get over the line.

Irish Independent

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