Kilkenny are built on their defence
Teams go for a lot of analysis and stats in the modern game but the big thing from yesterday’s disappointing contest was the failure of Dublin to score from the 49th minute.
They only scored three points in the second half to Kilkenny’s 11, while Henry Shefflin, who came on for the last 15 minutes, managed three in that time alone, using clever support play and positioning.
The problem for Dublin was that, while they created two good goalscoring chances, they were repelled by a great defence. Dotsie O’Callaghan took on Jackie Tyrell with a clever angled run and drove inside, releasing Johnnie McCaffrey. A goal looked on but a tremendous covering tackle by Paul Murphy denied the Dublin captain.
Five minutes later, another clever move from the Metropolitans saw Colm Cronin in space as he received and drove for goal. He tried a drop shot, where a high bat might have been a better option. David Herrity, whose skills are seen as shot-stopping more than authority around the small square, advanced smartly and courageously smothered the shot, with JJ Delaney bringing the ball away.
If any of these goal chances had gone in, it might have given Dublin some badly-needed inspiration. Instead they provided Kilkenny with the impetus. The Dubs huffed and puffed but to no avail as the game trundled to its obvious conclusion.
Dublin had a flawed plan
Dublin came with a plan. Centre-back Liam Rushe was a free man whose defensive job was to cover for his man markers and block any ball being threaded through. This worked to a degree as Kilkenny’s main threat came from their half-forward line. But offensively, Rushe offered little. A free man in the half-back line has to be moving into midfield to create the extra man and support his half-forward line when on the attack.
If it was part of their plans, Rushe made no efforts to join the attack. They played only one man up front at times with Dotsie, usually a corner forward playing between right-half and centre-forward. He created a goal chance for Cronin with a peach of a through ball midway through the first half.
Cronin showed strength and pace to finish to the net. But this was one of the few times Dublin asked hard questions of the Cats defence.
Tyrell was the free man in the Kilkenny full-back line and he swept up ball after ball. Dublin attempted to play measured pass from player to player. It worked as far as the half-back line. For it to work well, the ball has to be transferred at pace with passes that put attackers in good positions to run at their men. The Dubs moved the ball too slowly, mistimed one-twos and, inexplicably, lobbed high ball into the edge of the square to the grateful Tyrell.
In the first half, Dublin keeper Alan Nolan hit 10 of his 13 puckouts down the left- hand side. They won five of the first six but lost five of the last six, giving Kilkenny’s half-backs a platform to drive forward. The Kilkenny backs had the luxury of two extra defenders and by half-time, the writing was on the wall. When Dublin opted to tap a penalty over the bar, it sent pout all the wrong signals.
Cats were good but still must get better
In Tullamore last weekend, Richie Hogan was the pick of the midfielders. If anything, he went up a notch or two yesterday and gave a man-of- the-match display. His deliveries at times went astray but his constant movement and work-rate overpowered his opponents.
Dominating midfield and half-back provided the Kilkenny forwards with the ammunition and space to overpower the Metropolitans. TJ Reid was their main marksman, with most of his scores coming from placed balls. Kilkenny had too much firepower for the overworked Dublin defence.
Dublin’s defence added to their problems by giving short ground passes. These are difficult to control and force the receiver to wait for the ball. As a result, it sets up the receiver and the fast-tackling Kilkenny forwards won these balls and could have been in for a goal or two as a result.
Yesterday was a funny one in Croke Park. Fire and brimstone was expected from Dublin. Sutcliffe was clearly unfit and a straight full-forward roll might have suited Conal Keaney, who had a frustrating afternoon.
Kilkenny got their match-ups right in defence while their forwards had too much pace and guile.
Kilkenny were like a boxer with a longer reach, holding the Dubs at bay and counter- punching as the occasion demanded. They were just too good without hitting top gear.
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