IS there anything more anti-climactic than a draw in a county final?
Everybody is geared up for the day, everything put in to one big effort and then you have to do it all over again. Of course it’s worse to lose the final but for the mentors to have to psyche up the players again, the players having to build up mentally and physically with tired bodies and the supporters having to change family arrangements or travelling plans isn’t easy.
At least with a fortnight between the games, there’s time to recover and to start proper planning for the replay, but with only a week, everything is rushed.
One has to ask why extra time can’t be played in these finals to save everybody the hassle of a replay and the answer is, of course, finance for the board involved. While it’s extra costs on the clubs and the supporters, it’s extra revenue for the board coffers and no board is going to change that rule.
Six other finals had to be changed around to suit this replay and sometimes one has to despair of the way the GAA manages its business.
That said, who will win the replay? Probably the team that has more scope to improve and has learned most from the drawn game. Replays are notoriously difficult to predict as they rarely follow the pattern of the drawn game and usually take on a life of their own.
Which side has more scope to improve from the drawn game? Undoubtedly, Castlehaven. Strangely, they seemed to be perplexed by Nemo’s decision to play a sweeper in the drawn game and didn’t seem prepared for it at all.
Everybody knew Nemo were going to do something to limit Brian Hurley’s influence on the game, having destroyed their defence two years ago, and we were amazed to learn that the Haven really believed that Nemo would go man-for-man, 15 on 15. They thought Nemo were too proud a club to go defensive, that they would be prepared to slug it out toe-to-toe and the best team win. Well, now we know that Nemo weren’t that confident and adopted the sweeper role very well, with the result that the Haven took 20 minutes to come to terms with it, scoring only a single point in the opening 20 minutes. Fore-warned is fore-armed and now the Haven must have their plans laid for Nemo’s sweeper, if, of course, Nemo decide to go down that road again.
It was only when the Haven started to run at the Nemo defence that the scores began to flow and on Sunday next we would expect Chris Hayes, Damien Cahalane and Mark Collins to run at Nemo a lot more.
Brian Hurley was rarely in the game last Sunday because of the sweeper but still almost scored two goals. If Nemo go with the sweeper again, we would expect Hurley to shift position a lot more and not to be caught behind the sweeper so much. A spell at centre forward would be interesting.
It was said beforehand that if Brian Hurley failed to score from play, the Haven’s cause would be a lost one but that happened last Sunday and they managed to survive.
At the same time, the Haven replaced three of their starting forwards so, while it is a big boost to have survived without Hurley’s usual contribution on the scoreboard, they will have to get more from their starting forwards.
Expect Dermot Hurley, who changed the game when he came on, to start at midfield and Mark Collins to start at wing forward, adding cutting edge to a half-forward line that was fairly ineffective in the drawn game.
The Haven cannot be happy with the contribution from their forward division overall, kicking nine wides in the first half, and they will be expecting a big improvement in this sector on Sunday.
Another problem for the West Cork side to overcome is their inconsistency at midfield. Sean Dineen was magnificent in the first half as the Haven totally dominated the second quarter, but they were out of it in the third quarter when David Niblock took control. Dermot Hurley brought them back into it in the last quarter.
While we wouldn’t expect them to dominate for the full hour, we would expect the Haven duo to be more consistent over the full hour. They had the same problem against Rossas in the semi-final.
The Haven defence, with an extra man, did well in the draw and will have to repeat that performance on Sunday. However, because of the fade-out at midfield after the break, the team did go too defensive and we saw little of Damien Cahalane as an attacking force in that half until the closing minutes.
Cahalane is a much better player going forward than falling back in defence and his radar-like passes to Hurley are a big part of the Haven’s game. That was missing for much of the draw and Cahalane will have to shove forward much more on Sunday, leaving the spare back to cover behind.
What of Nemo? They caught the Haven with their sweeper system and that surprise is now gone. Will they try it again on Sunday? In all probability they will, as it worked very well and their defence did a fine job all through. They must be happy with the performance of their midfielders, Niblock and O’Donovan, in the second half, with assistance from Dylan Mehigan, who now has a game under his belt following injury and will be even better on Sunday next.
Just like the Haven, Nemo’s main problems were in attack, with the Haven defence well on top. Only Barry O’Driscoll really played to form but the in-form Luke Connolly was a huge loss when he went off injured so early. Word has it he will be available for the replay and that would be a big plus for the city men.
Nemo will expect much more from established stars like Paul Kerrigan and James Masters and they didn’t manage a single shot at goal in the drawn game. Expect them to be much more clinical this time out and I will be amazed if this replay is goal-less like the draw.
So, who will win? Taking that the Haven now know what set-up Nemo will probably adopt, the sweeper system, they should be much more prepared to deal with it, difficult and all as that can be.
Given also that Brian Hurley will not go two matches in a row without scoring from play and that there is more room for improvement from the Haven forwards than the Nemo forwards, then the Haven must be fancied to lift their game enough to emerge winners.
However, if they go long periods without scoring as they did in the draw, and in the semi-final, then they will be handing the game to Nemo.
In contrast to the draw, I think we can expect a classic this time out.