Match report vs Down

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Lone Shark
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Match report vs Down

Post by Lone Shark » Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:06 pm

Monday morning, and certainly Lone Shark is feeling the absence of weight on his shoulders. A monkey now scurrying off into the distance was for ages a savage weight on my back, but the monkey is no longer. Yesterday put an end to a run of six consecutive Offaly defeats between both codes, senior and underage, that I had the dubious pleasure of attending. Granted the stakes were negligible and the opposition limited, but all the same it was a pleasure to walk away from a game not trying to find silver lining amidst a thick gathering of dark cumulonimbus for a change.

Lest anyone suggest we are looking at a metal headed digging device with a four foot long wooden handle and calling it anything other than a spade, it is understood that yesterday was a home match against Down in the Walsh Cup in January. It’s just that this beggar has long given up on being choosy, so in the words of the farmer whose potato crop is made up of rather small tubers, we’ll thank God for small Murphys and start picking the bones as is our wont.

It was an odd game, where the impression was left that neither side was hugely concerned with the winning or losing of the match, and instead were more interested in playing their own game, and doing their own defending and attacking, with no noticeable variation in urgency, style or tactics from one end of the game to the next. This is probably understandable in the circumstances, but you did come away feeling you had watched a training match, and probably not even one with the legendary ferocity of those run by Cody among the Kilkenny panel.

Offaly took the field with fifteen who were shorn of probably most of those you would expect to be our leading lights come the summer, but at the same time almost all the regular supporting cast intact. If any less than ten of these fifteen start against Kilkenny in June we’ll either have pulled a lot of rabbits out of hats or be carrying a lot of absentees. As you would expect from the time of year, some players looked good, and you’d come away wondering how much of that was them and how much of it was the paucity of opposition, and equally several looked like lads who were very much in winter mode.

To describe the game as a whole is difficult, because it never really took off in any meaningful sense. Once going 0-3 to 0-2 in front after about ten minutes Offaly were never headed, never looked like they could lose the game, but never looked clinical enough to run up a big score either. There was a purple patch just after half time, when Down had Gary Savage sin binned, and Offaly went on a six-two run, but the Niall Claffey got yellow carded as Savage was returning, and any momentum we had was killed. The game petered out from there.

Overall the standard was mixed in poor conditions. In general John McIntyre looks to have had a positive influence, as by and large delivery was measured and directed rather than walloped, and players looked to find and use space rather than just move it along aimlessly. Midfield and half backs in particular impressed as a whole, and could not be help responsible for the mediocre tally we finished up with. The absence of Rory Hanniffy and Brendan Murphy up front was felt, as the forwards lacked any real incisiveness, and seemed content to prod away around the fringes and pick off their shots. While the shot selection was generally good, another sign of good direction and management, there were some pretty poor wides mixed in. However cold digits and slow ball was the order of the day, so we won’t condemn too harshly.

Seeing as Down won this league out last year, you really wouldn’t fear for our lads dropping any clangers this year. We will approach the summer on a run of wins but without a clue of our real standard it seems. Some would say that seeing as Kilkenny lately have paralysed us with fear somewhat, this may be no bad thing, though how any player could be expected to mark an allstar in a championship match when this kind of game yesterday was the prep work throughout the spring is a mystery as of yet.

Player ratings to follow, but a few things first. Firstly, and at the risk of sounding like one of those lads who gives out all the time, €10 into that yesterday was all wrong. Last year €20 secured admission to the Croker double header involving our game against Northoffaly and Meath’s against Wicklow, or €10 each. That was an absolute bargain, and if €30 was the price the GAA could still claim a very fair deal, for championship football in high summer at headquarters. €10 for a league game is steep, and €10 for Walsh Cup in Carrig is, once again, wrong. While from a P.R. point of view, Lone Shark appreciates that it tends to be the year round followers who take it on the chin, and the summer up-for-the-day-out crowd who make a lot of noise about how expensive it all is, no doubt also blaming the GAA for the cost of the train/the meal/a gallon and a half of beer in Dublin, but if more money is needed, the big games are the occasions to take it. Making days like yesterday expensive only encourages lads to ignore the non glamour ties, and amplify the sense of grievance if they lose out on a ticket for the big match to a summer follower. (Who usually complains about the price of the ticket, and how he couldn’t get another for his uncle back home from America for the week)

Secondly, the Down lads must have thought we were taking the p. Bad enough they have to travel so far to begin with, and that’s before Offaly go and play the game not even in the farthest point away from Ards in the county, but three miles further on again and into Tipperary. If you didn’t know the story with the area it must have felt like a sick joke. Granted Birr is the home of Offaly hurling, but in the case of Brendan’s field being unavailable, to hold the game in Mucklagh or Clara, both senior hurling club pitches, and thus sparing the Down lads an extra hours travelling each way would have been the decent thing to do. Even Moystown would have done by the same criteria.

Anyway, player for player…..

Breeder One good save from free play, and possibly another from a twenty one metre free, though to be honest it could have been Teehan on the line either – I couldn’t really make it out. Reacted slowly to one ball in the second half, but otherwise looked fine.
Barry Teehan Initially I thought him to be an odd choice for captain, seeing as I saw himself, O’Hara and Franks fighting it out for two corner back spots, but he did look completely in control yesterday. Always on top of things, and scored one masterful point. Probably man of the match, or close.
Peter Healion Looked slow and awkward. I’m aware that so did Kinahan for years, and the hunchback was one of the finest players we’ve ever been lucky enough to have don the colours, but you’d fear for what Brennan or Shefflin would do to him. Needs to come on a long way from yesterday to feature even off the bench.
Mick O’Hara A fine player who at the moment I would pick over Franks, who had a very mediocre 2004. Could end up full back yet. Solid display yesterday.
Niall Claffey In terrible form, for both club and county for quite a while now. One good long range point didn’t hide the fact that his dealing with the high ball was terrible. He never caught a ball, usually went to bat it down – and missed. Seeing how the game has gone, he can’t honestly expect to hold down a position on the half back line being so poor under the high ball, and won’t feature anywhere else. As things Stand Kevin Brady looks like being the front runner to take his place.
Joe Brady Very good yesterday – won high ball, burst out of defence, and wasn’t hooked as much as he often is. His delivery was good too. He’s the only player in the county with the potential to dominate games from 6, so his development is beyond crucial – it’s vital. His match up with Sheff/Dougal/Gorta the next day in this will tell a lot.
Colm Cass Still a class act, but one of those you could safely say who was not in the least bit concerned yesterday. Generally did the simple things well, but never looked to impose himself on the game at any stage. Same as it ever was with Colm – talent not an issue, motivation might be.
Diggy The wee man is coming on a long way, although it remains to be seen if the fiery side of his game could be kept under control in a game with anything at stake. He certainly has the finest wrists in this team at the moment, and his ratio of sweet strikes to mis-hits is improving all the time. Responsible for a lot of the good ball that went into our forwards.
Neville Exactly what you’d expect from the big man – whole hearted, ran at the Down defence tirelessly, and obviously enough once he got a few yards on his opposite number was never going to be caught. Will never be a scoring threat from seventy yards, but causes problems for opponents all the same. His physical presence should result in him getting a slot in the summer.
Cathal Parlon The meteoric rise of the young fella goes on. Quiet display yesterday, but enough from him to suggest that he might have a role to play over the summer too. His size causes half backs real problems, and he’s not afraid to have a go from range, although his shooting yesterday wasn’t the Mae West. Another county would nurse him for a bit longer, but unfortunately we don’t really have that luxury, certainly in the absence of Gary Hanniffy. How he develops could be very important to our chances of a long summer.
Ger Oakley The Renaissance Man now finds himself at centre forward. As a supporter I’ve always had great time for Ger, but he strikes me as a guy that they are just determined to find a role for somewhere, even though it never seems to work out. While he could easily find himself at full back again yet, I certainly don’t think centre forward is suited to him. He’s not a great catcher of a high ball, and his distribution is still very mixed. However he still emerges from situations with ball he had no right to win, and his fitness and commitment are admirable, so he could yet find himself back in midfield, with Neville in the eleven shirt.
Brian Carroll Scored a few good points yesterday, interspersed with two bad wides, but overall looked lively and a threat. Possibly not good enough at winning ball to play out on the 45, but will start somewhere in the forwards come the summer. Hard to believe he’d be a game breaker for us all the same.
Dylan Hayden Very ineffectual display. At one stage he even had his corner back beaten and behind him, only to get caught out – he’s just not quick enough for the inside line. A bit of physical development and he could re-emerge as a half forward, but for now looks to need more time. He’s still very young, so the jury is out, but to play him in championship hurling against Kilkenny as things stand would be to throw the lad to the wolves.
Stephen Brown In any other county they’d have given up on this lad as a could have been. He has all the skills, but is nowhere near sharp enough for a lad of his age. Got destroyed yesterday – never looked like competing. He’s too talented to say that he won’t figure, but he’ll have to put the work in between now and May.
Damien Murray Just about worth his place, if only for the free taking. Aside from one bad miss his dead balls were spot on, but still contributes very little from open play. A fully fit Rory Hanniffy to take the frees combined with a few other forwards on the scene would see him miss out – as it is he’ll be there, but really needs to start creating something himself.

No subs really had long enough to make an impression.

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