Cork supporters will condemn their full-forward line for not making enough ball stick, and the management appeared to pick out William Leahy as the fall guy.
Then again, their inside line was always outnumbered, with Darragh Fives sweeping in front of Barry Coughlan and Noel Connors. Cork were also in the majority at the other end but Waterford sprayed ball left and right in front of Maurice Shanahan, their sole full-forward for the most part, so that he was rarely asked to compete with more than one defender in the air. But Cork’s ball-winning inferiority was truly shown up in their half-forward line where they were unable to claim primary possession for any considerable amount of time.
James Barry and Michael Breen aren’t new kids on the block, but they added muscle in positions where Tipperary may previously have been wanting. However, Walter Walsh and TJ Reid more than managed to make an impact in the aerial stakes in Kilkenny’s attack. Reid caught a couple of balls he had no right to secure, while Walsh was a great link around the half-forward line. For all his fine work in the air against Dublin last Saturday week, Tipperary full-forward Conor Kenny struggled to claim primary ball in his duel with Joey Holden and Michael Ryan was compelled to change tact and replace him.
Unlike Kilkenny, Tipperary or even Galway for that matter, Dublin don’t possess an obvious towering figure in their full-forward line to aim long ball at. As a result, they profited most along the ground through the direct running and ball carrying ability of Eamonn Dillon along with David O’Callaghan and Niall McMorrow. Galway had a more obvious option in the shape of Joe Canning though he was off form. Canning did fire one excellent diagonal pass which was expertly fielded and created a goal chance. But Canning himself wasn’t fed with much ammunition when he was on the field. Dublin showed more aggression when contesting for possession in the middle third and ensured Galway had little opportunity to play to their own aerial strengths.
The heavy pitch ensured ground hurling wasn’t an option in O’Connor Park in Tullamore, while the swirling wind and rain didn’t make spraying high balls much of an option either.
But in Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin, Offaly had two great options under the dropping ball and while they didn’t always win primary possession they ensured there was plenty of ball breaking. Laois, on the other hand, didn’t have such an option but Stephen Maher showed what he can do if passes are laid off to him, and Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett will be looking at getting a target into his side which the manager stresses is in transition.
The Tricolour at the scoreboard end blew straight down the length of the pitch towards the far goal all day. A perfect day then for long, high balls into the full-forward line. Or so you would think. Neither Wexford nor Clare made much use of a seemingly obvious tactic yesterday. Neither side lacked for big men: Wexford had Podge Doran and Liam Óg McGovern standing tall in their attack, Clare had Aaron Shanagher loping about at the other end. None of them saw anything other than intermittent ball dropping from the skies as both sides opted for a shorter game that all too often resulted in mistakes and heavy bunching.