Former Kilkenny attacker Charlie Carter was less than impressed by the lack of protection afforded to the Cats’ full-back line in the All-Ireland final, writes Peter McNamara.
Tipperary’s inside forward line tore Kilkenny asunder at Croke Park.
Séamus Callanan, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and John McGrath, of course, contributed 2-15 from open play in Tipp’s nine-point success.
Carter felt a defensive screen in front of their full-back line was necessary, with the lack of cover for full-back Joey Holden particularly bemusing.
“I thought Joey (Holden) was absolutely hung out to dry,” Carter stated, speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast. “There was too much room between the half-back and full-back lines.
“Joey didn’t help his cause by trying to play him from behind. The only chance you have with someone like Séamus Callanan is to do a JJ Delaney on him, back yourself to get out in front of him.
“Once Séamus gets it, or any of that full-forward line, they have great body movement. They’re able to swivel around and find a bit of room to pull the trigger.
“Michael Ryan had his homework well done. He wanted to drag the Kilkenny half-back line up-field and Kilkenny fell for it. They moved up-field and left too much room inside.
“At half-time we were fortunate to be only two points behind. We should have been five or points behind.
“The rest of Tipp’s forwards were absolutely hounding Kilkenny’s backs into submission.
“I thought for a couple of years that Tipp had a soft centre, but not this year. Michael has added that steel.”
Carter is not one for defensive-minded tactics however, he did feel a sweeper would have benefited Brian Cody’s side on this particular occasion.
“We all identified that Tipperary had three of their best players in the full-forward line.
“The first thing I would have done then was drop Kieran Joyce back a little deeper, maybe drag back their centre-fielder a small bit and tighten up.
“I know that we don’t like doing tactics in Kilkenny. But you have to take every game on its merit.
“And Sunday, my meaning of merit is dropping a sweeper back for a while, especially early on to try and stop the flow of scores.
“Look it, Brian didn’t change the system so he’s probably going to take a bit of flak for that.
“Then, not to bring someone in until the 60th minute was strange as well, especially as he had lads running up and down the line all day.
“I’d say Jackie Tyrrell was a very frustrated man. Jackie, while probably in the twilight of his career, I’m sure he would have been biting at the bit to get out there.
“Maybe that would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t have. With 25 minutes to go, though, surely to God he was worth trying. He would have brought a little experience and presence to the whole set up,” Carter explained.
Yet, the Young Irelands’ man stressed “there would be no finger-pointing” despite the frustration of defeat.
“God there would be no finger-pointing at that group of players or management. Brian will get a mulligan on this one. He has won so much. There won’t be any knives out for him or anything.
“It’s just that we’re taking this game on its merits. Jees there’ll be nobody giving out to that bunch,” he said.
The addition of Ronan Maher at centre-back, thus allowing his brother Pádraic to revert back to his more customary wing-back role, was crucial for Tipp this year, according to Carter.
“In fairness to Ronan Maher, he has made No 6 his home leaving Pádraic back out on the wing.
“That has allowed Pádraic to do what he does best, mind his own spot and hurl a great game.
“I always felt Pádraic was trying to do too much at centre-back. The consequences of that were he might get caught for three or four points himself when someone was trying to drift off of him.
“Pádraic’s a serious, serious operator and the point he got in the second half was probably worth about three points because he has that connection with the crowd, they love to see Pádraic popping over one,” he said.