Sunday 25 February 2018

Cyril Farrell: Plans and ploys have their uses but big-day players make difference

The hard work has been completed - next challenge is to get mindset right over the coming week

Darragh Fives: Stand-in sweeper Pic: Sportsfile
Darragh Fives: Stand-in sweeper Pic: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

As the hype builds and pulses quicken, spare a thought for Conor Gleeson. Only for his suspension, he would be an automatic choice but, unfortunately for him and Waterford, he misses out. That's a great pity for both.

The fact that Waterford took his case no further than the Hearings Committee suggest they thought it was a waste of time and they didn't want prolonged disciplinary drama as a distracting backdrop. It was a wise call.

Waterford supporters might think Galway people are pleased to see him ruled out on the basis that it weakens the team, but I've met no one who thinks that way.

The hurling world is a small, tight-knit community - people know each other and realise that my bad luck today could be yours tomorrow. And unless you have a perverted sense of sportsmanship, you don't want a player to miss a final.

Regrettably for Gleeson, that's precisely what has happened to him.

He will be a big loss to Waterford. Gleeson is a relentless man-marker, a pest if you're an opposing forward, an invaluable asset if he's on your side. Three pictures in the Irish Independent on the day after Galway beat Waterford in the league quarter-final last April, give a clear hint as to who Gleeson would be marking if he were available tomorrow week.

They show himself and Joe Canning in three stages of a niggly exchange, which ends with both on the ground.

I have no doubt that Gleeson would again be despatched in Canning's direction, so his absence leaves Derek McGrath facing some big decisions.

Waterford deploy specific man-markers on various opponents, with their sweeper filling as many gaps as he can. Darragh Fives took over the sweeping role in the absence of the suspended Tadhg de Búrca against Cork and did it exceptionally well.

So well, in fact, that McGrath must now decide whether Fives or De Búrca holds the job against Galway. My hunch is that he will opt for Fives as sweeper and send De Búrca on Canning duty.

The other Galway forwards will have special assignees too as that's the way Waterford do business. And if it was good enough to get them to the final, they won't change.

It's fun trying to figure out the likely tactical formations and individual match-ups but, in the end, it's not as important as it's made out to be.

Ultimately, every game is about winning individual battles, in which case you control more of the possession and give yourself a better chance of winning. It's so simple, but it often gets lost amid talk of systems, formations, plays and ploys.

McGrath and Micheál Donoghue will have finalised most of their plans by now, leaving the last week to make sure the mindset is right.

It's all about making players feel confident in themselves, in what they are doing and in what they can achieve.

Galway and Waterford are approaching the final with different perspectives. It's all new to Waterford, which can work for or against them, depending on how they react.

Some teams have thrived in their first All-Ireland finals, growing into the day and controlling their nerves. Others - and Waterford supporters need no reminding of 2008 - can freeze and allow the day to pass them by in a blur.

I certainly can't see anything similar happening to this Waterford team, but will they rise to the occasion in the manner required to win? Only time will tell.

Some of the Galway team played in the drawn and replayed 2012 finals and most were aboard when they lost to Kilkenny two years ago so they know exactly what to expect.

More importantly, they know the pain of losing, that horrible feeling when you're back down at the bottom of the mountain and can't even see the summit.

I remember it from 1986 when we lost a second successive All-Ireland final. Understandably, we were being written off as a team that couldn't see the job through and would always find some opposition too good for us.

I have no doubt that the hurt felt by the group was hugely important in turning our fortunes around in 1987 and, of course, we completed the two-in-a-row a year later.

The current Galway squad will be trying to harness similar feelings to drive them to victory in the final, knowing that this could be the best chance they'll get.

Waterford have a similar view. Their excellent record against Galway won't win the final but it will boost their confidence to think that none of their predecessors ever lost to the maroon-and-white in the championship.

It all adds to the expanding intrigue.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport