Tactics not Passion: St Brigid’s shift down a gear to beat Corofin 0-11 to 0-10 in Connacht Club FinalSunday, November 20th, 2011
Small pitch, big impact
Unusually for a final this game was played in St Brigid’s own club ground in Kiltoom. While a decent set-up, this was a particularly small playing area for senior championship Football. Midfield was, at best, the equivalent of the 65 metre line (there was no such line marked.
The width of the pitch was still adequate but the shortened field would play a huge role in the game. The first half saw massive crowding between the 45s but the ball spent little time there as the ball move from end to end at speed. The advantage of owning the middle on such a tight surface and maintaining attacking pressure wouldn’t really be seen until late in the first half.
Corofin transition well from defence into attack
The Galway champions adapted to their surroundings quickly, looking far more at home with the dimensions than Brigid’s. Their focus on transitioning from defence into attack was clinical for most of the first half. It was a fast but intelligent approach that yielded 0-6 from play and created three opportunities for goals.
One of these ended up in the back of the net and was ruled a square ball. Despite being ruled out the effort displayed the problems in Brigid’s defence as Justin Burke got open on the right wing and played in a high ball and Mike Farragher broke through the defence with power to fist home.
The Galway champions made these early gains by exploiting Brigid’s poor cover on the counter. Passing moves through the defence were made with ease and the bulk of Corofin’s chances came from players in near optimal positions for scoring. There transitions up-field were smooth. This was a mostly efficient approach, but one which was let down somewhat by poor finishing on two goal chances and a third early in the second half.
More haste, less speed
Corofin looked the better side in the first half but much of this was down to the high error count by St Brigid’s. The Roscommon champions looked far too rushed in every aspect of their open field play. When moving out of defence St Brigid’s looked aggressive going forward with attackers pouring into good positions yet they didn’t get a point from play until 42 minutes into the game.
Poor decision making was at the heart of their problems. Turnovers plagued the Roscommon champions throughout the opening period as numerous attacks were stunted by misplaced passes directly into the hands of Corofin players.
On the rare occasions Brigid’s broke through the defence, there were some rash shots taken. In the 6th minute, Senan Kilbride unleashed Eoin Sheehy with a pass to give the latter a clear path to goal 30 metres out. Sheehy however opted to have a go quickly and the shot was nowhere near the target. A chance created by Frankie Dolan on 19 minutes ended in a similar manner. Dolan put Karol Mannion through into space but Mannion’s rushed effort was well off-target.
This was frustrating to watch as Brigid’s clearly had the passing game to break down Corofin’s defence. Peter Domican started a move in his own 21 that resulted in him getting the ball back 15 metres from the Corofin goal before being taken down. It was little surprise that place balls proved such an important asset for Brigid’s as the stops in play forced them to calm down and think before shooting.
Lengthening the field
Corofin’s improved ball winning in midfield towards the end of the first half gave a hint as to what might change the course of the game. The extra pressure brought by the Galway champion’s on St Brigid’s kick outs resulted in a couple of late scores to give them a lead at the break. It would however be Brigid’s who exploited the middle to game-changing effect.
The introduction of Ian Kilbride at half time signalled a change in approach from the home team. Brigid’s looked to use midfield more to move the ball and develop attacks. This more patient approach enabled Brigid’s to press more going forward. Once again Senan Kilbride found Sheehy in a scoring position, as he put him through on goal inside the large rectangle. Once again Sheehy’s effort was insufficient but Frankie Dolan recovered posession to score.
On top of improving the attacking focus, this tactical adjustment added some meat to defence and the previously porous unit looked impervious between the 45 and 21. Corofin failed to score again until the 49th minute and in the meantime Brigid’s moved from 3 points down to 2 points up. The Galway champions would fight back to draw level but the tone had changed and Brigid’s would surge back to come out by the narrowest of margins.
The performance of referee Liam Devenney and his role are largely not within the purview of this column. I find it hard to assign much influence to a match official however when the losing team that failed to get on the board for the first 19 minutes of the second half. This game is won over the course of an hour and Corofin had ample time to right any perceived wrongs. Instead the Galway champions failed to adapt to what looked a necessary adjustment by St Brigid’s.
This was an unusual encounter in many respects. It was a game 15 bookings, the bulk of which seemed justified, yet no red cards. The tone of play was dictated heavily by the forwards but it was a fairly low-scoring encounter, dominated heavily by place-balls. The last line defending played a large role in this as Corofin and, eventually, Brigid’s opted to foul players in scoring range rather than risk giving up an opportunity for goal.
Looking ahead the prospects for Brigid’s are not terribly promising. If they found Corofin’s transitions tough to deal with, the approaches of Crossmaglen or St Brigid’s of Dublin could cause them nightmares. Kildare’s Athy have a more impressive pressing game and the front line of Dr Crokes of Kerry will be difficult to contain. Assuming Brigid’s get past their quarter final assignment in London they however will have plenty of time to prepare for whatever awaits after Christmas. A less reactionary game plan will be required if the now back-to-back Connacht champions are to scale the ultimate mountain top.
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