Monday 19 February 2018

'You need to have something different for replays' - Galway boss Anthony Cunningham

Cunningham has been there, done that – and expects Banner to change game plan

Galway boss Anthony Cunningham expects Clare to change their game plan
Galway boss Anthony Cunningham expects Clare to change their game plan
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IN the build-up to this weekend's All-Ireland hurling final replay, Jimmy Barry-Murphy was asked if, in such uncharted territory, he had sought any advice from Anthony Cunningham.

"I hadn't thought of that, but I might now!" he quipped.

A man with his depth of experience hardly needs advice from anyone, but given that Cunningham was in an almost identical position to JBM this time last year, it was understandable that the Galway manager was suggested as a reference point for the psychology of replays.

Cork now face Clare for an unprecedented sixth time this season. The Galway manager had a similar dilemma when his side, who had beaten Kilkenny in the Leinster final, faced them in an All-Ireland replay in what was their fifth meeting of the year. From personal experience Cunningham  reckons that everyone should expect the unexpected on Saturday.

"When it comes to a replay you have to do something different, you've got to take what you learnt the first day and use it to your advantage, and I'd expect that both sides will change things around a bit, in terms of match-ups and tactics," he said.

"They are a bit like ourselves and Kilkenny last year, in that they know each other so well and it is hard sometimes to come up with something new.

"In our situation we were facing a team that had Henry Shefflin, so you're always trying to keep him quiet for a start, but the problem with Kilkenny is that they have so many threats."

The rabbit that Brian Cody eventually produced from his hat was Walter Walsh, the U-21 giant who scored 1-3 and won the man-of-the-match award despite the remarkable fact that the All-Ireland final replay was his senior inter-county debut. However, Cunningham says Walsh was not a complete unknown to Galway.

"He didn't come up overnight or anything, we knew he was a good player from his performances with colleges teams and Kilkenny's U-21s. To be honest I thought they might have used him earlier in the year," he revealed.

For this year's replay Cunningham will be surprised if both teams line out the same and expects that Clare particularly will make a change or two to their starters.

"I definitely think you will see different match-ups, especially in the Cork backs," he said.

"Relatively speaking Stephen McDonnell is one of their least experienced defenders and I don't think you'll see him marking Podge Collins again – they could make a few more switches there too."


He also believes that the Banner will make one change in their forwards. Coming into the drawn game, Cork were the only team to hold them goal-less this summer and repeated that feat while racking up three themselves.

"I think you'll see Clare set themselves up a bit more defensively this time," Cunningham said. "I'd expect them to play their half-forwards a lot deeper for a start.

"There was a lot of talk about their sweeper system before the drawn game when they didn't actually play one, but I suspect they will use one at some stage this time, even if it only happens after 25 minutes or something.

"They've met so many times this year, but the really important games probably were the Munster semi-final and their draw the last day.

"Cork won the Munster semi-final well but Clare missed a good few goal chances that day, and the last day showed that there's nothing between them.

"In those circumstances you've got to change it up, you've got to produce something new in any replay and that will be one of the fascinating things about it."

Irish Independent

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