Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hurling Quarter Final Previews

Dublin v Limerick

First things first: It is of course tough to bluff your way through previews for games, when team sheets aren't available. Even allowing for the calamity that has befallen the Dublin camp in the last 24 hours, one could point out that the 'sons of Ger Loughnane' Anthony Daly and Davy Fitzgerld are only repeating the sins of the father by keeping their cards so close to their chest until match day. Perhaps it's a quaint GAA tradition, ( Alex Ferguson isn't expected to announce who is playing three days before a match ) but also perhaps in this case both managers have very good reasons.

In Daly's case whatever plans and strategies the Clarecastle man had to recover from the Leinster final would have had Conal Keaney at their hub. Perhaps with the former football star being a focus for puck outs, he might have felt himself able to release Ryan O'Dwyer to the edge of the square. In a general tactical sense Dublin's task doesn't necessarily change too much for Sunday. Both sides, are to a certain extent, prisoners of slightly different formula that result in neither getting the ball into the full forward line quickly enough. In fairness to Daly he could at least make the point that he's using the players at his disposal close to their maximum. Whatever the effect of coaching it could never be said that it is the natural game of Dotsie O Callaghan, and to a lesser extent Paul Ryan, to charge towards goal the minute they receive the ball. But however it's achieved Dublin should be alive to getting behind a full back line that, thus far, has shown an over propensity to attack the ball. If Wexford were comfortably defeated in one respect in the qualifiers they were also a goal threat.

Donal O' Grady doesn't have the excuse of cutting cloth. He has at his disposal a goalscoring full forward throwback ( Kevin Downes ) the likes of which we haven't seen in a while. O'Grady apparently was annoyed at his players against Waterford that they didn't get the ball into the young Na Piarsigh star quicker. However one wonders why, on the evidence of the league final, that instruction wasn't drilled into the players in training ad infinitum. One suspects, despite media reportage that treats the Limerick manager almost a deity, that he still hasn't settled on a happy medium for his new side between long ball and possession keeping. In the Wexford match Downes was still rather starved of possession. Plus the talent that Graham Mulcahy evinced that evening would be better exhibited closer to goal rather than trying to pick and run at the physical Dublin side from midfield.

Dublin may still be a mite too intense and physical for the Shannonsiders. David Tracey could now be rushed back and resemble a new signing for the metropolitan project. Earlier in the week we would have mused that their best way to confront the season would be to bite the bullet and decide that Liam Rushe, rather than Joey Boland, is now their first choice centre back. But all bets are now off and Rushe may be firefighting in the half forward line. In the last couple of years this blog sometimes felt that Dublin hurling people pining for Conal Keaney was akin to a deluded flock beseeching for the return of a rusty prophet. This blog was wrong. Keaney's loss, from a work rate standpoint if no other, is almost incalculable. With a physical and solid platform from half back Limerick should have just enough to ride their luck.

Galway v Waterford

As at lunchtime Saturday Davy Fitz hasn't named a Waterford team. Conventional wisdom would relate that he's busy trying to rearrange the metaphorical deckchairs on the Titanic. Desperately trying to expel from Deise minds the ghost of Munster final horrors past. Former players haven't been slow to stick the knife into an outside manager who has made some tactical bloopers in his reign. This blogger was especially frustrated by the siting of John Mullane in a betwixt and between position in the All-Ireland semi in 2009: which made it all the easier for Kilkenny to get bodies on him. The placing of Jerome Maher on Lar Corbett also verged towards the death wish variety, especially since that meant that Brick Walsh was taken out of centre back, but not sited on the edge of the square.

Yet one does wonder though whether many Waterford people are now thrashing around for a scapegoat. If the manager's stratagems havent necessarily used the players at his disposal to the optimum; it could also be reflected upon that he hasn't had adequate replacements for the superstars of recent years in his squad. The preception is currently that Waterford are producing a bountiful crop of young players who are only waiting to be utilised. The fact remains though that, whilst Waterford may have 30 players of a higher standard than they had 10 years ago, you still need a minimum of 12/13 top performers to win an All-Irelands. After all the supporters of Waterford's opponents tomorrow may wryly reflect that Galway struggled depthwise in the late 80's. They had however enough great players to win 2 in a row. Having the B team win matches in training does not necessarily All Ireland contenders make. They may be a clamour for Waterford to make a raft of changes tomorrow. But the difficult truth may be that their best xv includes 12/13 of the Munster final team.

So Waterford may not have much scope to call in obviously superior cavalry. Galway, as this blog surmised a few months ago, may have their best team in years. So an easy win for the Tribesmen:Well not so fast. Displaying the same blind faith for Galway that the media have traded in for years, The Irish Times this morning predicted a Galway masterclass. But to achieve this, one would expect to have a defence that trades in excelling rather than coping. Masterclasses would emanate from backlines who have a full back who does more than play conservatively from behind; or wing backs who could dominate aerially. For Galway a relative master class would be Hayes and Canning putting up enough of a score to win a shoot out. Things seem all of a sudden rosy in the garden, but a day will likely come soon when Farragher at 11 looks a quixotic choice, or Iarla Tannion will get out of bed on the wrong side.

So this blog doesn't see Davy Fitz's little lamb lying down for the second day in a row. They have the physicality and athleticism to match their opponents. Richie Foley could yet get back to the form of last summer and the spring. We expect Brick Walsh and Mullane to lead from the front. Galway's firepower may just be enough to have Waterford carried out on their shield however.

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