The focus is now definitely turning towards Sunday’s second All-Ireland semi-final and so I’m delighted to welcome back Emmet Ryan of Action81.com into the guest slot to discuss the key tactical issues of this Dublin/Kerry showdown.
About Joe and the Gooch
One’s a lawyer and a pundit, the other’s one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Together, they fight crime. Oh wait, wrong preview. Joe Brolly’s claim last week that Colm Cooper doesn’t do the work of a centre forward is only half true. Certainly the Gooch won’t be mistaken for a traditional number 11 but that’s not the role Eamonn Fitzmaurice wants him to play. Kerry have a dearth of quality creators, particularly with Paul Galvin growing increasingly inconsistent as he ages. At club level, Cooper essentially has a free role to set up scores from all over the park. Fitzmaurice doesn’t have the ability to give Gooch such freedom but he recognises he’s the best option he has to drive their attack. Getting the most out of him in this role has however proved challenging and it’s not just down to the step up in competition. Cooper was barely involved in the Kerry attack in the second half against Cavan partially because of the restrictions put on him. Cooper’s objective as a creator is oddly reminiscent of Lar Corbett in his prime; he looks to go where he’s not supposed to go. By taking up unorthodox positions, Cooper can make the attack unbalanced and force defences to adapt to chaos. Kerry’s game is too structured to allow him to commit to such movements so instead he does his best creating off quick frees. Kerry need to loosen the leash slightly without unravelling their entire forward set-up.
It’s really about shot count
The shots scored/missed is the easiest stat to measure in Football and also the easiest to explain to the casual observer. The rather wonderful Don’t Foul website has done extensive research and found the average number of shots per 70 minutes for a county team is 27. Mayo, hey I know who’s reading this, put up 34 last Sunday compared to Tyrone’s 26. Dublin have averaged 39 shots per game through the summer. Suffice to say, that’s a lot. Jim Gavin’s charges have needed to post such gaudy totals as they have shot at 50 per cent all summer. That makes the rough arithmetic a little easier for Fitzmaurice. For every 2 shots he denies Dublin putting up, he can knock off a point. Naturally there are outlier performances but Dublin have rarely strayed from the average this season so it’s not entirely daft. Of course that brings up the natural question for any coach staring down Dublin…
How do Kerry stop Dublin creating?
Tyrone had the right idea…against Mayo. The half backs play a huge role in the creative game for Dublin. Ger Brennan, while not known as an attacker, plays a big role in the initial set up and Jack McCaffrey makes the left wing a threat for Dublin every time. McCaffrey’s runs also bring the diagonal ball threat into the game, particularly with Michael Darragh MacAuley and Ciaran Kilkenny working in tandem in the spine. You can’t chop off all a hydra’s heads but once Heracles (go away you and your Hercules spelling) found the right one he was grand. Kerry should see Dublin’s half backs as their best way to contain the arsenal.
I have a tradition of not formally announcing my pick until my preview column on Action81 goes up but Stevie Wonder can see what way I’m leaning here. For Kerry to overcome the odds, they must show a lock-down game in the middle third and build up a defensible lead before the final quarter. In terms of bench depth, this is not a fight. Dublin have a ton of it, Kerry don’t. Dean Rock, who may yet start, has been used as a closer for Dublin since the League Final and I would be stunned if Gavin doesn’t use him in a similar role on Sunday. Rock has the strength required to slot in for a ball-winner like Kevin McManamon or Eoghan O’Gara and the scoring touch to switch with Bernard Brogan or Paul Mannion. It’s his versatility that often sees him relegated to the bench. When you’re looking for a change-up, there may be no better option in the game.
This is Emmet’s Tactics Board preview of Sunday’s clash:
Emmet’s blog post on the time he was trapped in his flat because there was a bomb outside is up for an award. Vote for “Action81.com – Waiting for the boom…” here.