No sweepers were to be found in Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday as both sides went with a fairly orthodox formation. Kerry full-forward Tommy Walsh was glued to the 20-metre line, with corner-forward pair, Barry John Keane and Stephen O’Brien, withdrawing closer to the ’45. Several high balls were pumped in on top of Walsh and the Roscommon full-back, but the quality of the delivery and the astuteness of the two Roscommon corner-backs meant very few one-on-one situations materialised.
At the other end, Cathal Cregg and Ciaran Murtagh rotated in coming out to midfield which left Aidan O’Mahony as the spare Kerry defender. It worked well in the first-half as Cregg hit two massive scores from distance.
For a brief period in the first- half, Donegal were troubled by Brian O’Driscoll’s success in finding Peter Kelleher with precise long kick passes. By bypassing Donegal’s banks of players congregating around the central area between the 20 and 45 metre lines, O’Driscoll showed a stacked back-line can be overcome. But so disciplined were Donegal in getting bodies back they succeeded in wearing Cork down and the visitors’ negative body language said so much by the end. A few words of mention too to the clever movement of the Donegal forward line. The first goal was a result of exactly that; the second a classic example of rapid hand-passing create danger.
As well as showing three personnel changes in defence from the nine-point win over Mayo, there were four positional switches on the Cork team and the lack of cohesiveness was obvious. Jamie O’Sullivan will also need time to adjust to his man-marking berth in the full-back line where before he seemed to thrive in a counter attacking sweeping position. The experiment of Mark Collins operating at half-back lasted only a half, which may be just as well as he usually brings his influence to bear further up the field. It wasn’t that Cork were naive in their tactics but clearly unable to stick with the superior athleticism of their opponents.
There were no surprises from Fermanagh who set up very defensively with Barry Mulrone and Ciaran Flaherty dropping back inside their own ‘45’. Even when they had an extra man, Damian Kelly, they didn’t push up and preferred to carry the ball with good support play. Well organised in defence.
This all meant Meath grew frustrated at their inability to break Fermanagh down. Graham Reilly ran himself to a standstill, dropping back into defence when Meath didn’t have the ball and then tried to ignite attacks when they had it. Only had two up front after Tormey’s dismissal but couldn’t penetrate.
Going with the same team from the start as last weekend in Laois, Galway hoped the same tactics would reap dividends. They were patient early on, but once possession was carried into the Tyrone half the plan was to hit Damien Comer and Adrian Varley with long, diagonal balls. Unlike Loais, Tyrone has their homework done and the sweeping of Colm Cavanagh and Justin McMahon stifled that route.
Galway will need to do some work on their kickouts in the next three weeks. Tyrone went man to man and often forced Thomas Dolan to kick long. Then the Tyrone superiority under the breaking ball came to the fore. Mickey Harte’s attack worked like a fluid machine. Connor McAliskey was the only man to hold position on the edge of the square. Darren McCurry and Ronan O’Neill floated around outside him, but the movement of the trio bamboozled the Galway defence. Mark Bradley and Lee Brennan carried on that tactic in the second-half. But Tyrone’s movement was superb. Wing back Tiernan McCann ghosted into the square for their goal, while Aidan McCrory went on several lung bursting runs