Waterford weren’t as sharp against Tipp as they were earlier in the spring. They’re training since last autumn. Fatigue can surreptitiously seep into a losing dressing room.
Manager Derek McGrath needs to lift his team for Dublin, who are free from any pressures. His first priority will be to lessen the influence of Dublin’s sharpshooter Paul Ryan who operated in a free role against Limerick. Ryan does some of his best work from half-forward but also spends some time inside. Shane Fives, comfortable in the half or full-back line, is the ideal candidate for this man-marking role.
Another priority is their misuse of possession. The transfer of ball from defence to attack needs improvement. Too many deliveries are long and aimless and running the ball through midfield might be a better option.
The fleet-footed Colin Dunford is important in Waterford’s system. He operates between midfield and the full-forward line as a ball carrier. His role needs to be ‘fine-tuned’. Operating from midfield running straight at the heart of the Dublin defence and off-loading at the correct time to Jake Dillon or Maurice Shanahan should be his main objective.
When Dublin manager Ger Cunningham sat down to plan for this game, his top priorities surrounded his defence. Top was negating Déise captain, Kevin Moran. He is their Braveheart, their main driving force. Curbing his influence with a man marker is the first task in undermining their system.
Negating Maurice Shanahan is another. Dublin corner-back Paul Schutte has pace, strength and is an experienced man marker. He could have the difficult role of shackling Shanahan. His job will be made easier or tougher by his forward colleagues attitude to closing down the launch site for attacks.
In the last game, after 25 minutes, Dublin could have been out of the contest. Their defensive plans tomorrow will hope to have them competitive to the end.
Cork had a system in place over the last two games. Mark Ellis lay deep in a sweeping role in front of his full-back line. It helped that opponents Wexford and Clare played a sweeper system of their own, allowing Ellis a free role.
Tomorrow Cyril Donnellan and Joe Canning, for some of the time at least, will occupy the centre-forward berth.
Cork manager Jimmy Barry Murphy will hope Ellis makes the same impact as he made in the previous two games, playing a similar role and acting as a buffer, just in front of Canning.
Damien Cahalane might be earmarked to man-mark Cyril Donnelan, who is a dangerous and hard-working runner, with Aidan Walsh staying at wing back marking the tall Johnny Glynn.
Brian Lawton’s workrate in midfield and clever use of the ball was central to the team’s success against Clare. I’m assuming he will again operate in this sector. This leaves five forwards, with Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane inside.
Alan Cadogan is omitted. His pace and his covering work rate in the middle third will be missed, increasing the workload on Horgan and Pa Cronin.
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham has some defensive concerns after the Leinster final particularly across the half-back line. Pressurising this line and running good support lines in the hunt for goals is Cork’s best chance for success.
If Cork play seven at the back, Galway will have a spare defender and his role will be crucial. Johnny Coen has played this role before. Coen’s use of the ball from short puckouts is ultra- important. When Coen gets possession, Cork will want him to strike long. He must avoid this, as it provides direct possession to the opposing sweeper.
Moving the ball to the wing forwards, coming deep, is his best option. Opposing wing-backs follow their men out. This leaves vital corridors open for high or low deliveries, at the correct angle, to the Galway inside line, who have pace and high scoring potential.
There is a difference between what the late great broadcaster Micheal Ó Hehir described as “a long relieving clearance” and an attacking delivery. A clearance comes from a defender who has no other option and strikes under pressure. When the defender has that golden extra second his delivery should give an advantage to the attack. Too often with the ‘golden second’ Galway hit “long relieving clearances” from defence and midfield instead of measured deliveries.
It’s always a simple plan for Galway: get quality ball to Joe Canning and the inside line. Too often in the Leinster final, Galway opted for long hopeful deliveries which more than anything frustrate inside forwards. Anthony Cunningham and coach Eugene Cloonan will have improved in this area.
If Cyril Donnellan runs straight at the Cork defence, this game will go to the wire.
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