Scotstown ended a 20 year wait for a county title in Monaghan with an emphatic 15 point win in Clones. Emmet Ryan breaks down the strategic factors that led to a landslide victory.
A lone threat
We’ll get to Clontibret’s attacking inadequacy later but there was one aspect of the game where they caused problems for Scotstown at the back. Conor McManus was the chief scorer and creator, albeit solely in drawing fouls with the latter, as Scotstown repeatedly allowed him into single man coverage. McManus’ greatest strength in his ability to shrug off individual markers. It’s not all about power, although he has plenty, McManus knows when to turn, when to accelerate, and that allowed Clontibret to put him in positions to finish early. Defensively this genuinely is a worry for Scotstown ahead of the Ulster campaign as while few forwards understand their own power like McManus, most teams will present more than one viable scoring option. Positioning in the last line is a crucial area for Scotstown to improve.
The breather and the boom
Considering they put up 18 scores on the day, it’s easy to overlook the 12 minute lull in scoring from Scotstown. Between scores in the 7th and 19th minutes, they managed just two shots and both of those came on 18 minutes. The gap can best be explained by the success Clontibret had in controlling possession. Scotstown largely ignored the flanks for most of the afternoon and focussed instead on a mixture of direct running and kick-passing. Diagonal balls were used but largely with the man passing already in from the wing.
Once Scotstown re-asserted control in the middle third, this game got out of hand quickly. Clontibret’s distribution fell slack and the men in blue gobbled up every loose ball that came their way. Donal Morgan was immense in what would best be described as the Ian Kilbride role, an attacking half back who doesn’t move wide, only he had a scoring touch that Kilbride lacks. With Conor McCarthy showing solid positioning and movement throughout the game, Scotstown had plenty of options to hurt Clontibret.
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Here comes the boom
As the video above shows, Scotstown saw an opportunity around the Clontibret square and bombarded it. From four high balls they yielded 2-1 and the defence really let itself down. After the first ball in towards Shane Carey, which resulted in a Nicholas Corrigan point, Clontibret made no adjustment to check his runs inside. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me a third time and ah here lads. A lone marker was used on Carey for his run in for the third goal but the positioning of defender and goalkeeper gave Carey the advantage to make the most of the confusion. One-on-one defence against a high ball game is always risky but with Scotstown already holding a significant lead Clontibret couldn’t commit heavily to defence.
Dearth of options
Impressive as Scotstown were at limiting Clontibret’s opportunities, out-shooting them 31-15, Clontibret’s issues when they had the chance to shoot were significant. McManus went 7 of 9 while his team-mates combined for 0 of 6. Creatively, Clontibret could only expand the game when they went deep to McManus. They weren’t trying to move the game onto the flanks, which would have hurt Scotstown’s system and brought more attacking options into play. This made their attack predictable and once Scotstown made it hard to get the ball near McManus, they had no alternatives.
Sometimes it’s hard to write about hammerings because of the nature of the game but Clontibret’s sheer inability to adjust at both ends was the stand out feature of this game. Not only did the attack fail to spread the ball wide, the defence didn’t try to adjust its shape to push Scotstown’s forwards onto the flanks. For Scotstown it’s the end to a long wait for county honours and they have an attack that will cause other teams in Ulster problems. The last line defence however is a concern as it was the one area where their positioning could truly be called into question.
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