IT’S a big week on the Gaelic football front with the Dublin seniors aiming to achieve the unprecedented five in a row, while the Cork minors head to Croke Park to face Galway in the minor final.
Earlier this week there was big news with the appointment of Aidan O’Connell as Cork GAA’s first high performance manager. This is a great step forward in improving player development in Cork from youth to adult level.
Creating a player pathway and official link between club, academy and all the county teams in both codes is very exciting and it will be interesting to see how it develops.
The preparation of elite GAA players has advanced very much, even since O’Connell’s last involvement with the Cork senior footballers from 2008-2013, but he is very much to the forefront of physical preparation and sports science through his day to day role with Munster Rugby.
His previous experience with Cork will make him aware of some of the obstacles when the initial structures and processes are put in place. Dual players, multiple teams, overlapping training phases are just some of the challenges.
Nevertheless, this collective approach will ensure further progress will be made.
The standard-bearers of high performance, the Dublin footballers are one game away from greatness. Kerry will certainly ask questions of Dublin, but it’s just the winning experiences this Dublin team has gained which makes me think they will not be stopped. While the dominant side, there is also the humility to know they are not unbeatable.
Similar to the Tyrone game, you would expect Kerry’s Paul Murphy or another player to drop back as sweeper. The key will be getting into the right position to positively affect a Dublin delivery or to double up in the tackle.
For example, in Dublin’s game-changing spell after half-time versus Mayo, Colm Boyle appeared to be sucked too far out the field, and as a result, Mayo were more open defensively.
Since the Munster final, while Kerry are not coughing up as many goal chances, they are still conceding big scores. Maybe this is part of the plan, risk conceding a few extra points, but no goals as its goals which provide teams with momentum in big games.
A factor also this week is if Paul Mannion or Con O’Callaghan win possession similar to Tyrone’s Cathal McShane in the semi-final, the Dublin players won’t just be happy to always kick a point.
This will require a more direct approach from Dublin, a tactic they don’t use a much in recent years with teams setting up with more players behind the ball.
Irrespective of what team Kerry start with, early substitutions will still be expected. In the semi-final win, Jack Sherwood, Gavin White, and Tommy Walsh had big impacts. The danger is if Kerry start too conservatively, the game could be over before impact subs actually come on.
Under Eamon Fitzmaurice’s stewardship, Kerry did reasonably well on Cluxton’s kick-outs and this Sunday Kerry will need a repeat performance. Taking advantage here will be key then as 2-3 goals will be needed, points alone will not do.
Kerry may set up more defensive in the first half, similar to the 2014 All-Ireland win over Donegal. The concern here is Dublin have shown in their performances against Tyrone the last number of years, that they are capable of breaking down teams no matter what way they set up defensively.
There are so many factors that can influence a result, but I feel this Sunday it will come down to Kerry’s ability to be strong on their own kick-out and playing really well defensively. Wining plenty of possession to attack Dublin, but more importantly not losing any short options as Dublin will punish them with goals.
The other big game of the weekend involves our minor footballers. The team has been on an upward journey over the last few months. You would hope that the players will bring the same approach to the final as they have in every game since the initial defeat to Kerry.
Extra nerves are to be expected as it’s a big day in their sporting careers. The semi-final experience should stand to them, where the team overcame some early jitters to settle very much into the new surrounds of Croke Park.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but the key for Cork will be avoiding the distractions of All-Ireland final day and just focus on the performance. Win the possession stakes and Cork certainly have the firepower to get the right result.
The Cork ladies disappointingly lost to Dublin last Sunday in their All-Ireland semi-final, but amazingly over 24 later some players had to play club championship. No doubt the players want to play with their clubs, but it’s hard to justify the fixing of games for last Monday night.
It’s a credit to the players for their performances, but it just shows a lack of respect to the players. I appreciate games need to be played as there are championship deadlines to be met, but certainly player welfare wasn’t to the forefront when it came to fixing those games.
Looking forward to another great weekend of football in Croke Park. Here’s hoping this week a Cork team will be winning another All Ireland.
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