Kildare’s defensive set will define the game’s structure
Last Sunday saw Kildare switch to a much deeper-lying defence than had been seen in their wins over Donegal and Cork. As Daragh Ó Conchúir rightly pointed out on Twitter, this was a reversion to the system they used in recent years under McGeeney. In terms of movement the Lilywhites were slowed greatly as they struggled to make transitions forward, struggling with Kerry’s far from complex defensive formation. Conventional wisdom would suggest reverting back to what worked in the previous games but since when has this column stuck with that?
If Kildare give their half backs licence to roam and abandoned their packed approach, they will leave themselves open to Dublin’s attack. Under Jim Gavin, the Leinster champions have made tremendous strides in varying their attack. Bernard Brogan has become more of a scoring threat precisely because he isn’t being relied on to be one. With Brogan as a creator first, defences have to give more coverage to Dublin’s other options, freeing up their best scorer for more high percentage shots. Remember just 1 of his 12 efforts against Mayo was defended, and that was his one miss. Sticking with a pack defence would enable Kildare to check Brogan’s role and limit attacking options for Dublin. Of course this in turn asks another question.
What does that do to Dublin’s defence?
As demonstrated in the last episode of the Tactics Board, Dublin are playing fewer men as committed defenders. Kildare’s more expansive game would put Gavin’s side under greater pressure at the back but sticking with the pack approach would allow both lines to stay compressed and advance as a unit. That could see Dublin overload up front. As mentioned above Kildare could make far greater inroads if they use their half backs with the same licence as in the opening two games.
I’m almost tempted to make a prisoner’s dilemma analogy but it doesn’t quite fit (feel free to in the comments if you can). The one thing we can be certain of is that both sides will need to make adjustments throughout the game on Sunday. McGeeney’s record in this regard is mixed while Gavin’s sample size is tiny. Kildare’s game should dictate the style of play more early, meaning Gavin will likely be the first to implement a switch, but after that it should see frequent move and counter move from the sidelines.
In layman’s terms, I’m not putting money on this game and there are few games I outright walk away from. The column does not permit such caution so a pick must be made. Kildare have depth in 2013 but they still have work to do in terms of formation and player management. The front three of Seanie Johnston, Johnny Doyle, and Tomás O’Connor, should be a dynamic unit by the summer but their positional roles are still being worked out. Niall Kelly’s arrival is a huge boost to the squad but having looked tired against Kerry and playing Under 21s mid-week, his inclusion on Sunday may not be for the betterment of the side in the long run. Dublin for their part are clearly experimenting in midfield to find the right partner for Michael Darragh McAuley, and this will present significant opportunities for Kildare to control the territorial battle. Told you this was a tough call. If it’s not close, feel free to slay me on Twitter. Dublin to win.
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