St Brigid’s secured a fourth consecutive county title on the back of some great passing in the second half. In a slightly shorter than usual column, Emmet Ryan breaks down the game’s strategies. In lieu of the extra words, we’ve got video analysis. Yes, I know. Contain your excitement. Or don’t. It’s entirely up to you.
Gael force running
Western Gaels made more than a contest of the first half through a narrow game. By packing the middle their defence was able to limit quality shots from play however it did leave them prone to fouling more. With slippery conditions, any contact with a St Brigid’s man was going to be obvious and the crowd, while numerous, wasn’t refined enough to avoid giving up soft fouls. Had Gaels been able to present a more coherent system at the back, they could well have starved the All-Ireland champions in the opening 30 minutes. This approach however did give them the platform to attack with numbers. Gaels pressed heavy, passing short following direct runs. This was a simple but effective tactic as by removing the wings from the game, they had options to create shots. This was a gamble.
Victory Loves Preparation, the sequel to Tactics not Passion, is available to pre-order now.
Brigid’s get their passing game going
This was good, this was really good. Brigid’s attack was missing Peter Domican and Ian Kilbride, the latter a crucial part in linking defence and attack, but their passing game still created havoc after the break. After Gaels levelled matters on 32 minutes, it was almost all Kiltoom for the rest of the game. Cathal McHugh was a solid outlet in the creating game but it was Frankie Dolan who excelled in both scoring and making scores happen. Doing a lot of work with his back to goal, Dolan was able to shift the point of attack as Brigid’s pushed into a 5 point lead.
What really stood out however was how Brigid’s shifted their passing attack. For 20 minutes it was fast but largely short and prolonged moves. Once they had Gaels in a hole the approach shifted to quick moves with only three or four passes before the strike. The best example was Dolan’s goal on 57 minutes but Garvan Dolan’s goal chance in injury time, which resulted in a pointed 45 by Frankie Dolan involved the same type of swift movement. The plan was clear. Wear down the defence, force their opponents into a hole, and make them step out. Once Gaels did, Brigid’s had the options to pass faster and go for the kill.
So how did Brigid’s slow Gaels?
This was disturbingly simple. All Brigid’s needed to do was foul further from goal. Seriously, they did this a few times and it took over 20 minutes for Gaels to try to adjust their attack. It’s more obvious in the video (above) but when Gaels finally started pumping direct balls, Brigid’s had issues. From a defensive perspective, it’s a tad worrying that Brigid’s were under such pressure from an obvious tactic but given that Gaels didn’t try it or indeed any other approach until the closing stages their attacking predictability is of far more concern.
So this was brief but we got to the point. Brigid’s looked sluggish in the opening 30 minutes but still did enough to take a slender lead into the break. When they woke up and realised they are really, really, good at passing the game turned decisively in their favour. Playing a narrow game in poor conditions was clever on the part of Western Gaels. Not having an alternative to their primary plan of attack, or even a slight tweak, left them open to a lengthy dry spell. The underdogs were out-smarted. The All-Ireland champions survived.
Read more Tactics not Passion columns here.
Follow Emmet Ryan on Twitter.