St Brigid’s quest for a third straight Connacht title remains on course after a comprehensive victory over Galway champions Salthill/Knocknacarra. Emmet Ryan breaks down the tactical factors that saw the Kiltoom club cruise to victory.
Salthill suffer an early blow up front
The Galway champions came out with a clear attacking plan but were forced to makea change just 5 minutes in. Seamie Crowe was positioned as the lone inside forward with a four-man half-forward line and three-man midfield behind in support. Crowe’s role, while defined, didn’t provide much room to work inside and even with him on the field, Salthill’s attacks were forced out to the left flank. Going off injured after 5 minutes, the loss of Crowe not only removed the target man for the Galway champions but also forced them to change their free-taker on the right side. Eoin O’Mahony, who came on for Crowe, initially filled the latter void. O’Mahony however went just 1 of 3 from dead balls and made no impact from play. When O’Mahony was substituted in the second half, Sean Armstrong took charge of all remaining frees.
Brigid’s bring pressure, get points
While the teams were trading scores in the early going, it was Brigid’s who set the pace. With Senan Kilbride and Frankie Dolan in advanced positions, the reigning Connacht champions focussed on working the ball through the middle. This approach was fundamental to their comeback in last year’s provincial decider against Corofin and yielded substantial dividends on Sunday. Ian Kilbride was crucial to this movement as Brigid’s took charge of the territorial battle. Darragh Donnelly and Garvan Dolan both scored as a result of such moves, as Brigid’s moved into an early lead.
When not in possession Brigid’s brought pressure in numbers. Early in the half the swarm went no further than the Salthill 45 but once control of the middle was theirs, the Roscommon champions brought the battle deeper into opposing territory. The Salthill full-back line was receiving little support and quickly began giving up frees in prime territory for Brigid’s two dead-ball specialists. Between 11 and 20 minutes Frankie Dolan scored two short-range frees and Senan Kilbride added a pair from further out. When not winning frees, the Kiltoom club sought to create space. Kilbride engineered room for himself on 21 minutes with a pivot step before firing over.
Patience yields rewards
A 16 minute scoreless streak did little to hamper the Brigid’s cause as Salthill managed just a solitary point, off 4 scoring chances, in the interim. Once the attack got back in rhythm it was business as usual. Open looks were the primary target with Kilbride once again making space for himself to score on 37 minutes. The passing, while not precise, was calm and focussed on finding the open man. From dead balls Dolan took on the load for the remainder of the half, scoring three from 45 metres out (2 45s and 1 free) and another free from short-range as Salthill’s brief comeback hopes were snuffed out.
Salthill lose all sense of shape
For 8 minutes of the second half, Salthill appeared capable of fighting back. Armstrong scored two frees and one point from play between the 42nd and 45th minutes but he was receiving too little support. Armstrong subsequently missed three straight chances and Salthill wouldn’t find the uprights again until a minute into injury time. Supply was as much an issue as Salthill’s dearth of attacking options. Once Brigid’s got the territorial advantage early, the Galway champions made no adjustment to shore up their defence and get more control over possession. With relentless pressure on the ball near their own goal, Salthill had little hope of getting an attacking foothold up the other end. This lack of adjustment saw tempers fray, making Brigid’s job easier. Dolan’s pointed 21 metre free on 39 minutes came after the referee advance the ball from further out for a needless infraction after the foul had been called. These mental errors piled up as Salthill failed to adapt to Brigid’s pressure.
St Brigid’s won this game comfortably despite an inordinate knack for giving up frees when Salthill attacked, with 7 of the Galway champions’ 15 scoring chances coming from dead balls. The Roscommon champions succeeded however in starving Salthill for the most part, with separate spells of 17 and 16 minutes without a score conceded. The former period saw Salthill denied a single scoring chance.
As expected, Brigid’s worked the middle with Ian Kilbride to enable the other parts of their game to flourish. With greater territory, the Connacht champions could bring pressure higher and keep their front men in high roles. On Sunday they faced an opponent unable to adapt to the pace behind their swarm. The Connacht Final will see Brigid’s come head to head with a more defensively astute opponent. This will prove an interesting test of the Kiltoom club’s capable to control play from inside opposition territory.
Tactics not Passion: The book
Tactics not Passion, the book, is now available to order. The book tells the story a year in tactics from Sam to Sam and features extensive looks at the Mayo and Sligo county teams. Order your copy here.
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