Monday 18 November 2019

Negative tactics in danger of creating farce -- Cunningham

Cliona Foley

TACTICS are here to stay in hurling, but hopefully not the ultra-negative kind that turned last Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final into a "farce", says Cork senior selector Ger Cunningham.

"Hopefully, it was a once-off situation and we won't see a trend. That would be the worry," said the legendary Rebel goalkeeper of last Sunday's debacle, which saw Tipperary star forward Lar Corbett take on an unprecedented man-marking role on Kilkenny wing-back Tommy Walsh.

"It's a results-driven game at this stage and people are looking at different things. Everyone is trying to find their own little niche and their own little tactic," Cunningham noted.

"Every team is trying something. Sunday was probably something we hadn't contemplated or hadn't seen before and took it to a new level.

"People are just trying to come to terms with it really, the situation where one of the best forwards of the last couple of years is running around after a defender, it caught everyone by surprise.

"Is it going to be a trend? Hopefully not," he said.

Yet, like most people working in elite inter-county hurling these days, Cunningham, who is Jimmy Barry-Murphy's right-hand man with the Cork seniors, believes that tactics are now part and parcel of the modern game and not necessarily a derogatory word.

"It's just evolution, the way the game has gone," Cunningham stressed.

"Hurling is changing all the time and some people mightn't like the way it's going from the point of view that they'd like to see the old traditional two midfielders, three half-forwards and three full-forwards.

"But that day is probably gone," he conceded.

"You're going to see different variations of forward play, and if that means pulling a defender out, or pulling the half-forwards out or whatever it is, things are going to change.

"I think you will see an evolution of that happening the whole time, though hopefully it wouldn't get to the situation where it becomes a farce," he added.

Cunningham clearly differentiated between what Tipperary tried to do last weekend and what Galway successfully did in this year's Leinster final.

"I wouldn't see what Galway did against Kilkenny as any way negative, that was a positive one (tactic)," Cunningham said.

"They went out to win that game, they used an extra midfielder to try and upset Kilkenny and it worked.

"Again, when something works like that, other people say 'is there something else we can do?'

"That's what you do against a team like Kilkenny, who are so good. People are trying to find a different angle.

"There is more of a focus on tactics all the time, in nearly all of the matches now, rather than before when it was the odd time.

"Clare, a couple of years ago, drew an extra defender back when Anthony Daly did it and it was kind of a one-off," he noted, pointing out that pulling a corner-forward to a much deeper role is now also an accepted and successful tactic for many hurling teams."

But, like many, Cunningham expressed surprise at the negativity of Tipperary's approach and particularly at why they persisted with it for so long when the game was rapidly slipping away from them.

"It was obvious after 10 or 15 minutes that it wasn't going to work, even though Tommy was out of the game and so was Lar because he was anonymous really.

"You would imagine that if something wasn't working you would change it, but it took them a long time to look at it and change it."

Cunningham foresees no such negativity in this Saturday's Bord Gais All-Ireland U-21 hurling semi-finals in Thurles which, coincidentally, pit Kilkenny against Galway (6.0) in what is seen as a tasty precursor to their senior final clash.

Kilkenny only have four of their senior panel involved but Galway, whose senior manager Anthony Cunningham doubles up in the same role with their U-21s, have over 15 of their senior panellists involved and retain 10 of their All-Ireland winning U-21 team of last year.

Clare play Antrim in the first semi-final (4.0) with both games live on TG4.

Irish Independent

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