Duhallow build a wall
The divisional side had defensive intentions early as they looked to stop Castlehaven breaking through for scores. Midfielders Aidan Walsh and Bertie O’Callaghan played deep while Duhallow adopted a double-sweeper system to open the game, similar to what Donegal used against Kerry in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final. A.J. O’Connor played the deeper of the two sweepers with Donal Gayer adopting a more box-to-box role as the higher sweeper. With Castlehaven only playing one true inside forward early, in the form of Brian Hurley, the west Cork club played into the hands of this defensive system.
In attack Duhallow opened the game looking to play direct but soon switched to a more cautious game. Playing patiently just inside the Castlehaven half, they worked the ball slowly in the centre to free up space out wide. This gave ample opportunity for men to get open on the flanks and create scoring chances. The highlight was Padraig O’Leary’s point on 18 minutes which saw him get free on the wide after some cautious passing in-field. With time to steady himself, O’Leary took his score well. This approach eventually forced the Castlehaven defence to open up and Niall Fleming took advantage on 24 minutes. Once again slow build-up play was used before Fleming finished with a fisted point.
Castlehaven eventually adapt
To counter Duhallow’s defensive shape, Castlehaven attempted to take sweepers out of the game. O’Connor and Gayer were marked but Duhallow were initially able to get extra players open to fill in. Eventually the Castlehaven attack got half of what they wanted, forcing Gayer into a man-marking role but with Gayer still roaming as extra cover. With O’Callaghan still excelling as a deep-lying midfielder, Duhallow were far from fragile at the back.
The west Cork club was forced to adapt its attacking shape. The intial plan was to use Hurley as a target man and to bring the horde in support once he broke play down. Having proven initially successful, Castlehaven eventually switched approach after scoring just once between the 1st and 27th minutes. With extra men forward, partially as a result of their attempt to mark the Duhallow sweepers, opportunities started to present themselves. Damien Cahalane scored a long-range free on 27 minutes, Hurley followed up with a score from play a minute later, before Mark Collins ensured the sides went in level at the break as he skied a point from short-range.
Duhallow lose their wings
After trading scores to start the second half, the game soon devolved into a defensive stalemate. Castlehaven’s forwards were seeing little of the ball but their defence neutralised the Duhallow attack. The patience that had defined the divisional side in the opening 30 minutes was lacking as they failed to recycle the ball into favourable positions. Time and again forwards took chances under pressure from the wings and on three occasions Duhallow let the ball go wide without even creating a shot. A 15 minute scoreless spell was eventually broken when Matthew Dilworth found the uprights from wide on the right. It was a paltry reward for Duhallow’s territorial dominance.
With Castlehaven down a man for the final 17 minutes plus change, Duhallow should have been able to find a way to create space on the flanks but they remained locked in their futile efforts to bring the ball inside early. The pressure appeared to finally pay off when Jack Cott scored from a tight angle on 57 minutes but once Castlehaven found the net Duhallow had no plan to come back from a two-point deficit. They tried to work it inside but as you can see below, Castlehaven’s blanket at the back left little room for manoeuvre.
Kealan Buckley’s weak effort on goal was as close as they came and Donncha O’Connor’s point at the death was of no help with the final whistle imminent.
Sometimes one option is enough.
For the first 20 minutes of the half, Castlehaven’s only successful option going was on the right flank. For the final 10 it was the left side. In both cases it was essentially the same option as Mark Collins was the entirety of the west Cork’s club’s attack. Having scored their first point of the half from the right on 35 minutes and he levelled matters from the left on 52 minutes. It came as no surprise that Collins was involved in the score that won the match for the west Cork club.
The move was simple if unintended. Trailing by a point with 2 minutes remaining, Collins attempted an equalising score from the left. His under-hit shot was met by the fist of Shane Nolan and found the back of the net. Having soaked up pressure at the back for the bulk of the game, Castlehaven were now in a position where they could commit wholly to defence and they did so with gusto. Duhallow had failed to break down the last line of Castlehaven all day and with the entire out-field committed to stopping for the remainder of the game, the divisional side were choked out.
While not the open attacking encounter of the Premier Intermediate final that preceded it, which will be analysed on this site on Monday, this game was a riveting tactical battle throughout. Duhallow’s defensive plan worked for the bulk of the first half as they prevented a bulky Castlehaven team from breaking them down early. Having initially looked intelligent in attack, the divisional side lacked the variety required to respond to Castlehaven’s deeper defensive game after the break. The result was a poor shooting performance, with Duhallow converting just 9 of 21 scoring chances on the day.
Castlehaven’s attack was far from elite, shooting 8 of 17, but they found a way to make chances despite being well-beaten in the territorial stakes. Collins was unquestionably the difference-maker as outside of the inter-county star they lacked creativity up front. That will need to change if they are to add more silverware this year but on the day it sufficed to lift the Andy Scannell Cup.
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