It was a battle of strength versus speed in Dowdallshill St Patrick’s up tempo attack ensured they emerged victorious over Newtown Blues in the Louth Senior Football Final replay. Emmet Ryan looks back on an interesting battle.
Shape a huge factor
In the first meeting two weeks ago, the Blues ability to crowd the middle gave them a decisive edge in the first half. From the outset St Patrick’s looked to combat that by playing a far more attack-minded formation.
Whatever pretense that Paddy Keenan was playing in midfield was swiftly set aside as the former All Star proved the most mobile member of a seven man attack. Eamon O’Carroll and Daniel O’Connor played inside, away from the corners, with Eoin O’Connor playing between them and a bank of four more attackers.
This shape was aided largely by the Blues going with a largely similar approach to the first game. By packing midfield and looking to build from deep, Newtown only had four true attackers. Essentially the two teams lined out in the pattern that suited building on the parts of the game where each had success a fortnight previous. As we will see, the shapes would have a huge impact on the final outcome.
Blues bludgeon their way to frees
Newtown got off to a good start by using their superior size going forward. There wasn’t anywhere near the dynamism we saw at times in the first game but, initially at least, there was a massive improvement in accuracy. The Blues used their muscle to force the Pats into giving up scoreable frees, with 0-4 of Newtown’s 0-7 tally in the opening 30 minutes coming from place balls. John Kermode, who’s game would end early, notably put a lot more power into his frees after having several fall short in the Drogheda meeting.
The major concern from early in the game however was the Blues lack of success in breaking down the St Patrick’s defence and creating opportunities inside the 21 metre line. The slow build up play from the back didn’t suit the numbers they had forward and with St Patrick’s able to cover back at speed counter-attacking wasn’t really an option.
The Blues were happy to try and replicate the method that gave them the lead at half-time in Drogheda. This time however the Pats had a plan to shake up this comfortable approach.
Pats bring the pace
Right from their first attack St Patrick’s looked to force space behind the Newtown full back line. The runs by both O’Connors not only created opportunities in over the top, they also stretched the defence. This gave St Patrick’s the chance to create high quality chances at speed.
Eoin O’Connor scored two points in as many minutes that demonstrated both of these traits. The first, on 15 minutes, saw him break in behind the defence to score a point from play on the run. A minute later the Pats charged forward again and the #14 was on hand to finish a flowing move.
There was tremendous efficiency to the attack in this opening 30 minutes with 1-8 scored from 10 scoring chances. The last 10 minutes of the first half proved crucial as the Pats dragged Newtown defenders across the field as they went on a 1-4 to 0-1 run.
The goal typified this attacking dominance as Keenan ran to the edge to the square to receive a high ball in from Ray Finnegan. Despite being brought down, Keenan was able to bundle the ball home.
The Blues had opened the game trying to force a slow and physical encounter. While they enjoyed early success, they were caught cold by this flurry by the Pats. In the previous game it was the Blues who left the Pats flustered at the break, now the onus was on Newtown to counter in the second half.
Substitutions swing tempo
The Blues used the speed on their bench to try and force the game more into the Pats half. Barry Sharkey and Robert Carr helped move the game more into the Pats half in the final quarter as the Blue created more chances. There was however still a total failure to create decent chances inside the 21. With the early shooting form of the first half disappearing, the last thing Newtown needed was a string of long range low percentage chances. As it was they finished with just 0-9 from 26 scoring chances on the day.
Not the the Pats were firing on all cylinders after the break either. Having missed 5 of their first 6 shots in the second half, the Pats found they were still creating space but failing wholly to convert. St Patrick’s lacked the depth of the Newtown bench but they made the most influential change of the game. The introduction of Karl White on 35 minutes restored some pace to a tiring St Patrick’s attack.
White’s finest delivery was wasted as he sent in a ball over the top to Eoin O’Connor. The forward shot for goal from a tight enough angle but he still should have done better than to fire straight into the hands of Stephen McCann in the Blues’ goal. White would eventually get his reward for a fine performance when he finished off another fast passing move to record the final score of the game.
The second half of this game played out an awful lot like the first only with a massive drop in accuracy from attackers. Whereas decision making was the key issue in the first game, this was more often a case of taking the right shot but making a mess of it. The Pats dominated with their pace and were able to keep the game largely in Newtown’s half. Their accuracy really was lacking after the break, scoring just 0-4 from 10 chances.
Fortunately for St Patrick’s, the Blues deteriorated at an even faster rate and it became painful to watch their efforts late on. The final point for Newtown came with over 23 minutes left in the game. The changes they made gave them more time in St Patrick’s half but didn’t inject any kind of threat to create better chances.
By sitting higher in attack, the Pats actually defended better in the replay as they could track back and pressure harder rather than allowing the Blues to dictate the pace. That in turn enabled the fast St Patrick’s attack to force Newtown’s defenders into leaving space on the counter, ensuring a well-deserved victory and a shot at Portlaoise in the Leinster club championship in a fortnight.
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