Limerick were behind by eight points at half-time in their league game with Galway earlier in the season. They won’t want to be in a similar situation at any time tomorrow. They will be looking for a good start and their go-to man from puckouts, particularly early in the game, is Gearóid Hegarty.
If the players lineout in their programme positions, Hegarty will occupy the right-half-forward berth with Aidan Harte as his direct opponent. The Limerick management will like this match-up. The tall, athletic Hegarty is good in the air and he will fancy his chances in this duel.
Harte is having a good year. However, ability under the high ball is not his greatest strength. As part of Limerick’s puckout strategy, Kyle Hayes vacates the centre by moving towards the left wing.Hayes is also a target for Nickie Quaid’s long deliveries so his opponent cannot afford to leave him unmarked.
When a tall attacker is stationary under a high ball a defender can afford to stand back, tap him on the shoulder and then step in and jump.
This ensures that the attacker never leaves the ground. It is much more difficult to counteract a tall man when he moves to the ball. Quaid is very accurate and by striking to a position five to 10m inside Hegarty, the Limerick attacker can move across and take the high ball at pace. He can then move into the space in front of goal vacated by Hayes.
This allows for easy tap-overs and can set up goal chances if Hegarty straightens and runs at the posts.
Aaron Gillane created some gilt-edged goal chances in Limerick’s last two games. As Frankie Byrne might have said, Limerick didn’t need them those days but they might need them someday. That someday is tomorrow. You cannot afford to pass up on good goal chances in a final (Ask any Tipp supporter re 2009).
The certainty is that Gillane won’t keep missing these chances and the Limerick outfield players will be anxious to engineer similar scenarios that will set the right-corner-forward up with possession inside the 13m line. When a defender finds himself ‘one on one’ with an attacker he is at the mercy of the man delivering the ball.
If it is a 50/50 delivery it gives the advantage to the defender. However, if the delivery is of such a quality, with the pace, height and angle of the ball taking it away from the defender and within reach of the forward, there is very little a defender can do. All he can hope for is a miscontrol by his opponent.
At times, Limerick’s other two inside forwards drift away when possession is gained around midfield and moved towards either wing.
This provides the ideal angle into Gillane as he moves to the right when possession is on the left and the opposite way when possession is on the right. Feeding Gillane with quality deliveries has to be high on the Treaty agenda. So far he hasn’t capitalised on some excellent crossfield deliveries but I feel that this will change tomorrow, if opportunity knocks for the attacker from Patrickswell.
In their last three big games and in the crucial league game against Limerick earlier, Galway built up big leads in the first half and relinquished them as the game progressed. In the replayed semi-final against Clare they led by nine points after 20 minutes.
However, they failed to score over the next 20. Galway need to manage their game differently. When they are six or seven points ahead they might revert to a defensive formation for a period.
By dropping their forwards back, effectively having the full-forwards as the half-line, they will squeeze the middle third. Limerick play a counter-attacking system.
Their half-forwards and midfielders funnel back and then break quickly into space in the opposite half. They open up the play with smart offloads and deliver the ball into the wide open spaces around their full-forward line.
Galway would concede short puckouts with a defensive strategy. However, by setting up their defensive line on the attacking 45 and preventing offloads to free Treaty colleagues it would force the Limerick full-backs to hit long deliveries forward into congested areas.
Once the Tribesmen turn over possession, they would have superior numbers in the middle third and attackers could easily be released to run at the Treaty inside defence.
Limerick’s full-back line could not afford to push up, as it would leave too much exploitable space in front of their goal, thereby handing a numerical advantage to Galway in their half-forward area. Going defensive for a period requires discipline, composure and good support running.
I watched the final ten minutes of Galway’s first half against Clare again.
Their option-taking, support play and deliveries from defence to attack in that period weren’t to the required standard of such a talented team.
Improvement in these areas is a must.
Galway have big forwards. Alternating these on the edge of the small square could pose problems for Limerick full-back Mike Casey. Most opposing forwards drop off their opponents at puckout time. A simple tactic for
Galway’s netminder James Skehill would be to go short to his full-back for some
puckouts, take the return and advance to the 20m line and launch a long ball to the right of the small square.
Right-corner-forward forward Cathal Mannion would drag Richie English out to the wing near the 45m line prior to the puckout, with Conor Whelan on the left, isolating Casey. Skehill’s delivery should travel diagonally to the right of the goal.
If either Glynn, Burke, Cooney or Canning stationed themselves near the endline, the full-back would find himself in front. If one or two of Skehill’s deliveries were accurate it would mean that the forward was jumping from behind, giving him a big advantage over the defender and possible possession in a ‘one on one’ close to goal.
As the ball was being struck by Skehill, Mannion and Whelan would delay a few seconds and then make support runs in the hope of receiving an offload or a favourable bounce. When you have attackers with pace who are good finishers, as Galway have, you must run at defenders. They haven’t run at defences as they might to create goal opportunities in this championship. When they have done, they seem to crowd in on each other.
Composure comes with confidence and it is most important when goal chances present themselves. However Conor Cooney, usually a very reliable finisher, looks short of confidence at present. Batting the ball from the edge of the square is a far better choice than using the conventional swing.
Early goals can kill teams and if Galway get on top early tomorrow the champions will need to display a ruthless streak. Young teams play without fear. The longer the game goes on as a contest the more confident Limerick will become. If the champions build a lead but are then reeled in, it will open the door for Limerick.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved