Defeat could be a bonus!
By Donal O’Grady
Pretend the All-Ireland is the world heavyweight championship.
Don Mac an Rí is one of the contenders in the Munster title bout tomorrow and knows that only the belt fought for in September will bring fame and fortune. So he looks at the bigger picture.
If he wins he’ll probably meet Kilkenny. If he loses he would take his chances against Cork, Limerick orClare and then go up against Galway who may find it difficult to recapture their Leinster final form.
This could be the easier route to the title fight. He has provincial titles. Does he need any more?
The ultimate prize is his one ambition. Don Mac an Rí would throw the fight.
Would either manager consider it? I doubt if they would as it’s a philosophy that’s foreign to hurling. But how valuable is a Munster title to Tipp or Waterford if they fail to go the whole way?
It’s a strange situation but defeat tomorrow could be a bonus while a win may mean a more rocky journey. We’ll assume that Tipp and Waterford both want to win.
Tipp’s full-back line were unconvincing against both Limerick and Cork and the Déise should have a basic game plan – work good ball into John Mullane and Shane Walsh operating as a two-man inside line isolating Tipp’s Paul Curran and Conor O’Brien or Micky Cahill, who may pick up Mullane.
Waterford’s other inside man, Gavin O’Brien, could play a deeper role roving across the half-forward line forcing Tipp’s spare corner-back away from covering positions. O’Brien’s pace and runs from deep into supporting positions — a difficult strategy to defend – could pay dividends for Michael Ryan’s charges.
The Déise half forwards’ work rate will be crucial if victory is to be secured. Forcing hurried clearances from Tipp defenders will help Waterford’s defence enormously and limit the effectiveness of Tipp’s dangerous half-forward line, an imperative if they hope to win.
When Tipp beat Kilkenny in the 2010 All-Ireland they focused on putting their half-forward line in possession. Since then Tipp only used this strategy in the last 15 minutes of their first round win against Limerick and in the game against Cork.
Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher and Pa Bourke were particularly impressive against Cork, feeding short, accurate ball into chief recipient, Noel McGrath, while direct running in the final quarter unhinged Limerick.
Tipp will have to replicate these performances, supply Bourke with quality ball, have him run at Tony Browne and limit the inputs of Mullane, Walsh and midfield dynamo Stephen Molumphy. If they do, it should be enough.
Cork have selected a different defence for the last four games. Damien Cahalane, a specialised full-back starts today. He’s young and inexperienced but has pace, strength and the basic attributes of a good full-back. He should play from the front, use his keeper more in times of necessity and direct his clearances.
Cahalane’s battle with Wexford’s young full-forward Jack Guiney will be interesting. Success for any team is a strong half-back line and Cork need to settle on their best trio.
The unfortunate Christopher Joyce is out for the foreseeable future. However, Cork have experience on the bench in the shape of Seán Óg Ó hAilpín.
John Gardiner could slot straight in at six as William Egan, dropped for this game, struggles for his spring form. Cork’s forwards should carry too much power for the Model’s defence but the deliveries from Cork’s half backs will have to improve.
Wexford will fight hard and Cork will have to police Diarmaid ‘Gizzy’ Lyng as he breaks forward from deep. It should be comfortable for the Rebels if they play near to their potential.
With Limerick and Clare the advantages lie with the Treaty side. Limerick have had a two-week break since their last game, perfect recovery time. In contrast, Clare fought out a tough, physically draining contest with Dublin and seven days is a short turnaround. The Banner’s victory meant a lot to manager Davy Fitzerald and the players and it’s difficult to come down from such a high and get back up for the fresh challenge this evening.
While Clare were investing huge emotional and physical energy in Ennis, Limerick were enjoying some R&R in a five-star complex in East Cork ensuring they will be fresh and enthusiastic as they plot league revenge.
Limerick have been banging in the goals recently, 14 in their last two games. Clare give away a lot of frees and find it difficult to score goals, although Darach Honan is dangerous if he gets possession.
Question marks remain about the solidity of Limerick’s defence but if they tame John Conlon and Conor McGrath they’re halfway there. The battle between Limerick’s half-forward line and Clare’s half-back line could decide this game.
Limerick can afford the luxury of holding marquee players Declan Hannon and Seamie Hickie on the bench. When they’re introduced their class and experience may provide the extra impetus to drive Limerick home.
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