Waterford’s system is most efficient when they build up a lead so Tipp manager Michael Ryan will look for a fast start in tomorrow’s Munster final.
Tadhg de Búrca is Waterford’s preferred sweeper. However, the opposition chooses the spare man. If I was Michael Ryan, I would play Callanan on Tadhg de Búrca to prevent De Búrca being the outlet for defensive passes.
As a support player or when in possession, I would want Callanan running straight at the posts drawing frees. Niall O’Meara has pace and a good work ethic. I’d line him up in the right corner on Noel Connors but he would operate as a double left-half forward.
He would have licence to make runs across the half-forward line and from there to cut for goal if opportunities arrived. Connors is difficult to exploit in the corner. However, this strategy would force him to operate as a man-marking half-back, a horse of a different colour.
The plan would be to score points from outside. Noel McGrath has great vision and point-scoring ability but his work-rate on the right flank would be key in this strategy. He would be the main link or outlet for the defence as Waterford clog up the middle.
As forward and midfield colleagues look for support before coming into contact he could drop off towards the sideline, slightly behind the play, as an offload option.
Acting almost like a quarterback, his quick hands could yield vital scores from this area. When the play opens up, long-range points or diagonal crosses to Callanan or his brother John would be valuable additions in the last quarter.
In this year’s league game, Tipp created three good goal chances. If they get goals they will be in pole position but points from outside, as they were in last year’s encounter, could be the way to go.
In last year’s final, Waterford were very wasteful with deliveries from defence.
Countless long aimless balls were struck into the Tipp full-back line and Padraic Maher, operating as a ‘free’ man, had a field day.
Manager Derek McGrath will have learned from that display. He is a smart manager and he is well aware that teams no longer need over 50% possession for victory. Protecting possession and using it wisely is the key to success.
The Déise need to link the ball out of defence into midfield and use it well from there rather than ‘belting it’ forward.
Austin Gleeson could play a vital role in this strategy. Kevin Moran and both Darragh Fives are strong ball runners and good link players. The plan would be to move the ball short as far as midfield and to offload to Gleeson, coming from deep down the centre at the last moment. He has height, strength, speed and great long-range scoring ability. He should be encouraged to shoot from far out when a good opportunity presents and to play the percentage on other occasions.
At times, under pressure, he doesn’t always take the correct option, but if he can learn to protect possession by moving the ball to the next best placed colleague, it would make his team more effective.
Waterford’s style of play militates against the creation of goal chances.This is a weakness because it allows the opposition to stay in the game. Maurice Shanahan mainly turns onto his left side when in possession. Playing him on the right of the goal as a target-man for diagonal deliveries would allow him to offload easier to Shane Bennett, Patrick Curran or Austin Gleeson careering through the centre. They may need to create and take a couple of goal chances tomorrow.
Cork v Wexford
When Cork and Wexford met in the qualifiers last year, Cork got a firm grip on proceedings from the beginning. Wind-assisted, they chalked up a 2-17 to 0-9 half-time lead. Going for the jugular early on must be the Rebels’ plan again.
Exemplary discipline and tight marking, especially on Wexford’s marquee forwards Conor MacDonald and Liam Óg McGovern are basic requirements for the Leesiders’ defence.
Up front, they need to harass the Wexford defence, forcing turnovers to shake Wexford’s self-belief. Turnovers are always big psychological blows to a defender’s confidence and Cork need to attack the Model County both physically and mentally from the start.
Conor Lehane scored 1-6 from play on Slaneyside last year. Cork must engineer openings for Patrick Horgan, Lehane and particularly Alan Cadogan by delivering an intelligent quality service from outside.
Early body-blows will knock Wexford’s confidence and derail their challenge.
During the week I was surprised to read Liam Dunne’s assertion that if Wexford had a full side they would be a match for anyone. This was a comment that might have been held over until October, as it may undermine the confidence of the current players. It may convey the message that, as a team, they are not quite good enough for this level.
However, Dunne knows that the longer the contest goes on the more self-belief will flow through this his side. If Wexford can reduce Alan Cadogan’s considerable influence, Cork may struggle. If I was Liam Dunne I would double-team him with one marker behind and one in front and take my chances elsewhere.
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