Something from the weekend: Our GAA team’s views from the pressbox
Seán Moran and Malachy Clerkin with the main talking points from the weekend
Shane O’Donnell found himself outnumbered too often to hurt Limerick.
Conor McManus took eight shots at goal and scored seven points against Cavan.
Clare get their priorities back to front against Limerick
Clare first used an auxiliary defender in championship in the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final. Anthony Daly’s reasoning was straightforward: Kilkenny had a lethal roster of forwards and shutting down their space would be a prerequisite of having any chance. It worked well enough to get Clare a replay.
Under David Fitzgerald’s management, Clare have been tactically flexible but inclined towards using a sweeper. They did so in the defeat at the weekend, dropping Patrick O’Connor back to mind the full backs.
The problem with this turned out to be that O’Connor, a more than capable man marker, was often under-utilised - standing spare with at times acres of space between him and the half backs, unoccupied territory in which Cian Lynch and colleagues were free to roam.
At the other end Clare produced plenty of evidence that had Shane O’Donnell received orthodox support they would have gone to town on Limerick. It was initially clear in the problems O’Donnell caused in an outnumbered attack and later when Aaron Cunningham arrived, in the havoc wrought by two inside forwards really going for it.
To what extent was it necessary to use a sweeper against a Limerick team whose strengths have not included a prolific goal threat? In the past two championships during which Limerick have contested two All-Ireland semi-finals, they have failed to raise a green flag in four out of seven matches and in only two have they managed more than one goal.
When Conor McGrath recovers full fitness it would be interesting to see Clare with a man-for-man configuration having a good cut at the opposition. SM
Monaghan over-reliant on McManus in Cavan
The abundant gifts of Conor McManus aren’t news to anyone but it’s no harm for him to throw in the occasional reminder as he did in Breffni Park on Sunday. Monaghan’s main forward was so central to their one-point win over Cavan that it’s difficult to see how they’d have made it across the line in such a sticky encounter without him. It isn’t that they’re a one-man team, it’s more that they have one man who can be trusted above all others. It is both their greatest strength and most obvious weakness.
McManus was double-marked throughout by Feargal Flanagan and one or other of Rory Dunne and Jason McLoughlin, depending on which side he went to. He took eight shots at goal and scored seven. Two of those were from play and entirely of his own making, scores for which he had to fight for 50/50 ball, gather facing away from goal, loop out and around his pursuers and finish on the run. Monaghan don’t have another player who can fashion scores like that from nothing.
Every time he got on the ball inside the Cavan 21-metre line six times in the game. Along with the two points, he got fouled for a free that he scored himself and another that Kieran Hughes pointed. Another time he got a shot away that dropped short. Only once did the sequence not end with a kick at the Cavan posts. That sort of economy is priceless.
Especially so in a team that puts such a burden on him. Monaghan were in trouble against Cavan precisely because for a half an hour, McManus didn’t touch the ball in open play inside the Cavan 45. The work-rate of Monaghan’s forwards is wholly admirable but there are spells in games where they badly need another body up alongside McManus, if only to take the attention off him. Exceptional and all as he is, he can’t save them every day. MC