of what it takes to beat Kilkenny. Get in their faces, cut down their time on the ball while conceding few frees — all of which is easier said than done of course.
Croke Park has a huge playing area and it may not be as easy to shut down Kilkenny’s half-backs and midfield as it was in Portlaoise last year.
The Cats will be seeking revenge for that loss and they look hungry and fresh this summer. But they are not as good as they were. Questions surround their defence and their ability to replicate in Croke Park what they did in the tighter confines of Tullamore against Galway. Two years ago Dublin went to Portlaoise with a lot of expectation. They gave away too many easy frees and made elementary errors which Kilkenny punished ruthlessly with goals. They rectified matters last year by denying Kilkenny goal chances and by playing with a ferocious work rate and discipline in a low scoring affair.
Replicating this performance and cutting down on ‘unforced errors’ must be the main part of Dublin’s plan tomorrow afternoon.
Kilkenny for their part will seek nothing more than to keep their defence in a tight formation.
made a triumphant return to county colours last weekend. He showed the management exactly what he could do and what was missing in his absence. An old style centre-back, he occupies the centre and refuses to be drawn to the wings. Great generals always seek to choose the battlefield. If the Dubs fail to shift Hogan from his choice of battleground it will allow Kilkenny to set up their defence as a tight unit, blocking the access to goal. Drawing out the centre-back is an easy enough tactic to employ. But it needs a certain player to execute it properly and for this Dublin need to pick the lock rather than battering down the gates here.
Alan McCrabbe is ideal for this deployment. He’s accurate, can score from long range and has the ability to move to the wings at the required time just as the wing forward vacates the space.
A centre-back won’t move unless his man is scoring or setting up scores. Centre-forwards don’t generate much ball themselves. The onus then is on the Dublin midfield and defenders to seek out McCrabbe at every opportunity and then for him to be ultra-economical with the ball. A lot of ball is wasted with poor deliveries from defence. Good economical use of the ball, as with Offaly teams in the ’80s and ’90s will be crucial to Dublin’s effort.
will have looked at all the possible defensive, midfield and forward combinations likely to be tried by one another and have plans in place to counteract whatever they face.
Looking back at their League final victory, the annihilation of Offaly and their two games against Galway, Kilkenny will want to get TJ Reid on the ball as often as possible.
He has been their main man from play and frees. He is also very adaptable and his height, ball winning ability and pace enables the management to use him in various positions.
While Kilkenny will want him on the ball as often as possible, Anthony Daly will have to police him tightly and Stephen Hiney, physical and fast, might be assigned to these duties.
They can’t afford any lapses in concentration and Reid’s off the ball runs will have to be tracked continuously. It won’t have been lost on the Kilkenny management that Wexford isolated Dublin full-back Peter Kelly and had him in trouble at times, but their inexperienced full-forward, Conor McDonald, failed to exploit the situation.
It is sometimes forgotten that Kelly is a converted left half-back. At times he goes for balls where a more natural full-back would simply tie up the man. Kilkenny will seek to isolate Kelly and don’t be surprised if Reid could see some time at the edge of the square. Pádraig Walsh was excellent last weekend. His clever movement and positioning caused Galway many problems. He is a strong runner with the ball and he has the ability to score from long range. He will be opposed by Liam Rushe, who is a covering centre-back rather than the man marker that is needed to curb Walsh. Dublin may need to make adjustments here with a three-man midfield or a protector in front of Rushe. There is a doubt over Danny Sutcliffe, who will lack match sharpness if introduced, so the onus for scores will fall on Conal Keaney. Dublin lack natural goalscorers. They will need to hit a lot of long-range points. Kilkenny know this and that subduing Keaney is key.