Tipp are now on full alert after sleepwalking into Galway, writes Donal O’Grady.
The Rebels needed the scoreline in the league final to be the other way round. They might then have ‘caught’ a complacent Premier.
Still, Tipp will have to win three tough games to retain their Munster title. It is difficult to ‘get up’ for three games in a row. The easiest of these, on paper, is the fixture tomorrow against their traditional rivals.
Michael Ryan is under a little pressure for the first time in his tenure. He has lost Kieran Bergin from the panel and this type of combative player can be very valuable off the bench. Tipp were injury-free last season, a major plus for Ryan who will want to get through this fixture without too much fuss. A low-key, half to three-quarter pace will suit him nicely. Conserving emotional energy and staying injury-free is crucial for this three-game campaign.
He knows they will need a huge performance in the upcoming Waterford test, whereas an underwhelming outing will suffice tomorrow.
On the other hand, Cork manager Kieran Kingston needs an ‘in their face’ performance and see where it takes them to have any chance. Opponents normally raise their game when they are facing champions. Cork can make life difficult for Tipperary if they can apply a similar up-tempo committed game to the one Galway brought to the league final. However, major question marks hang over the Rebels’ discipline and ability to sustain this type of play.
Gameplans generally zone in on one’s own strengths and on opponents’ perceived weaknesses. Cork’s corner-backs both look vulnerable. A lack of form hinders Stephen McDonnell while Colm Spillane in the other corner is very inexperienced at this level.
Tipp will seek to strike early and often to knock Cork’s confidence. Supplying corner-forwards John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and particularly John McGrath, with quality ball provides Tipp with their best chance of creating goal chances.This ‘dynamic duo’ will also be sharp onto any breaks from full-forward Seamus Callanan who also carries a huge goal threat.
Long, diagonal ball from their half-backs and midfield into the corners could prove beneficial for Tipp. However, a long ball tactic can be haphazard and inaccurate if the suppliers are being pressurised. Utilising the talents of wing-forwards Noel McGrath and Dan McCormack as distribution hubs for their inside line carries a much greater chance of success.
Long deliveries give defenders more than a fighting chance. However, defending 20/30m crisp accurate passes to the correct side of the attacker affords a defender little chance of an interception.
The elder McGrath is overly casual at times but there is no denying his talent and ability to set up goal chances. McCormack and McGrath make dangerous inside runs and offload with hand passes or crisp, telling strikes to their fellow forwards. John McGrath and O’Dwyer ghost away from defenders taking up dangerous positions as they criss-cross the goal or make looping runs in tandem with O’Dwyer.
If the movement inside is timed correctly, Tipp will carve out good goal opportunities, with the clever Callanan at full-forward moving right or left, as required, to create a screen for his cornermen (Image 1); ‘pulling away’ in support or pouncing on defensive mistakes, usually with devastating results.
The Maher brothers, ably assisted by Seamus Kennedy, dominated this fixture last season from the half-back line. In last year’s encounter, Cork defenders sent 45 deliveries into the Tipp half. Thirty of these went directly to Tipp defenders. Ronan and Padraic Maher were the main beneficiaries.
Cork’s plan was for the half-forwards to drop deep to receive 30m passes from defenders.
But players revert to type when pressurised and send long aimless ball forward. The plan had merit. The execution did not.
If I was Kieran Kingston, I would go with the same plan tomorrow. I would use a rotation of forwards (to keep tempo high) to occupy the right-half forward position, directly opposing Padraic Maher. The plan would be to play the position almost as a right-sided midfielder coming deep to gain possession and then link the play through the lines releasing the other half forwards to run at Tipp’s last line of defence.
Right-corner forward Alan Cadogan would be required to move outfield and operate about 40m from goal,15/20m from the sideline, making himself available to link up with central attacks.
The onus would be on the Cork defenders to find their man on the right, forcing Padraic Maher to make a decision whether to hold his position or man mark his opponent. Cork would like him to stay in his position (Image 2A).
If Maher marks his man in midfield, Cadogan would then be available as the receiver on the right with midfielders Bill Cooper or Lorcán McLoughlin supporting with runs from deep in an ‘inside right’ channel.
Brendan Maher played a successful ‘holding role’ in front of his centre-back last season. I expect a similar role from him tomorrow.
Tipp half-forwards Sean Curran and Dan McCormack will funnel back quickly clogging up the centre and the left flank of Cork’s attack while Noel McGrath will zone in on Cork’s right half forward.
Cork’s right wing back, Christopher Joyce, will then have to move forward in support, preferably infield (Image 2B), which gives him better attacking options. However, delivering the ball astutely is not the strongest part of Joyce’s game and precision and composure will be needed by the Rebels when moving the ball forward.
Of course, unless Cork bring fire and passion to the proceedings all plans will be futile.
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