Former Galway star Paul Clancy knows a fair bit about beating Derry sides in championship action having been involved in both Galway’s 1998 and 2001 All-Ireland winning sides that defeated the Ulster men in All-Ireland semi-finals.
More recently Clancy has been heavily involved in team management, acting as a Galway selector with Alan Mulholland last year while he also had a stint alongside Justin McNulty in Laois.
Watching from the outside in, Clancy has been impressed by Galway’s development under his former team-mate, Kevin Walsh.
“They won their last two league games against Roscommon and Kildare and they have won three out of their four championship games so far, so they have a bit of momentum behind them.
“Beating Armagh last weekend away will have given them confidence ahead of today’s clash however Derry are a tough team to beat,” the ESB International employee said.
“They will keep the ball all day if it suits them. They beat Down and were not far away from Donegal in their Ulster semi-final clash either, only losing by two points. They set up very defensively and they are well used to the system that they use to negate the opposition.”
Clancy references their defensive master-class against Dublin earlier in the year in the league to re-iterate that point.
“Dublin only scored a single point against them in the first 35 minutes of football in their league game. Diarmuid Connolly hit a great score from distance in injury time of that first half, however, the score at half-time was Derry 0-3, Dublin 0-2.
“So they are well able to shut down any attack with their defensive set up. The challenge for Galway will be to hit enough scores to win the game.”
Clancy has firm views on how to break down a massed defence.
“A team has to keep the play very wide and work down the flanks, and then at the right time try to work it inside. A player cannot get isolated without support or he will be turned over, and Derry are very good at doing that. It is not easy to get scores on a massed defence and often the successful teams commit the defenders to commiting fouls in the scoring areas. A top class free taker is vital in that context, and that is what gives the likes of Donegal (Michael Murphy), Dublin (Dean Rock, Brogan & Cluxton) and Kerry (Cooper & Sheehan) and Mayo (Cillian O’ Connor) an advantage over other teams.”
Clancy gives a hesitant nod to Galway today based on home advantage and having possibly a little more fire-power throughout their team.
“Damien Comer has been doing very well all year and he was impressive against both Armagh and Mayo.
“He was a big loss to us last year due to injury and he is a very brave and tenacious young player. However, Galway cannot just try to go route one as Chrissy McKaigue at full-back for Derry is a very good player and he would relish an aerial combat. Kevin (Walsh) will want Gary Sice and Micheal Lundy offering scores from half-forward and both Galway wing-backs, Gareth Bradshaw and Liam Silke also need to chip in with a few scores.
“Galway need to move the ball very fast on the counter-attack and they will need players like ÓCurraoin, Flynn and Conroy to produce big performances. Conroy will have to be very accurate on frees too.”
Clancy highlights Mark Lynch and Cailean O’Boyle as big threats for Brian McIver’s team.
“Lynch is a key player for them and if Gary O’ Donnell can stop his influence, it would be huge for Galway. O’Boyle scored a few lovely points against Wexford and he and Bradley need to be closely marked in the full-forward line. It will probably be a very tight game. The winners today play the losers of the Ulster or Connacht final in two weeks time, which is a huge incentive.
Whichever side wins today will genuinely fancy their chances of reaching the quarter-finals and rightly so.”
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