Splitting the posts: Galway unleash in Portlaoise
11:00, 23 Apr 2012
Shane Stapleton analyses Galway's 4-21 to 0-19 win over Dublin - including the Tribe's accuracy and Anthony Daly's overdependence on Liam Rushe
Not creativity but accuracy turned the game in Portlaoise. Galway were twice as clinical as Dublin in the second half: a 65% shot conversion rate to 32%. As the Dubs fell away, the Tribesmen put them away.
More worryingly for Anthony Daly, his side got just 0-2 from open play in the second half while his forwards - both starting and coming on - collected just 0-6 in total over 70 minutes; Paul Ryan and the lively Conor McCormack halving that between them.
Dublin put away just 49% of their chances overall and a mere 42% (11/26) of their shots from play; Galway, on the other hand, hit 3-15 from play (18/28 efforts - 64%) as they converted 64% of their total chances.
The reason for compartmentalising the game into halves - as above - is to point out the parallels from the original fixture a week previously, and ultimately to pinpoint the differences. As in the drawn tie, Dublin were able to take control of the first half but again Galway reeled the game back in. This time there was no goal concession before the break and that was key for the maroon shirts, as it was precisely what had kept a drifting Dublin side in check in Tullamore.
Galway had been doing more of the hurling a week earlier but on the back of what Kilkenny did to them, confidence may well have been shaky. Dublin’s two goals and an inability convert big chances through Cyril Donnellan and Damien Hayes in the first half were key factors to the draw.
Indeed those two men worked impressively in Portlaoise - Donnellan’s dispossessing of Danny Sutcliffe in his own half on 58 minutes typified the Galway workrate. Hayes rightly picked up the man of the match gong and, with just 0-1 tagged onto his name, it’s encouraging to see that facilitators receive credit too. Because Hayes set up six scoring chances, including the crucial second goal for the excellent Joe Canning after the former beat Peter Kelly in a sprint for the ball.
A half-hour into the Kilkenny massacre, the Tribe’s entire full-forward line had been withdrawn, with Hayes among them. Fast-forward to the relegation play-off, the change has been rapid. Such is life in sport: one week the fodder, next week the cannon.
And just like Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, Galway did not let up once they went ahead. No better place, too, to lay to rest the ghost of last year’s championship loss to Dublin than in the same ground.
Daly’s troops had trouble making the ball stick up front against Galway, much like last week in Tullamore as that game progressed. Only did the clear goalscoring chances come once Liam Rushe was moved up to full-forward: he charged towards goal to set up Eamon ‘Trollier’ Dillon for an opening that was shut out by goalkeeper Fergal Flannery; then the St Pat’s man won a penalty in injury time when Kevin Hynes mistook him for a jungle gym.
The problem is that, as with the previous week, Rushe’s influence was needed further out the field too. Daly brought him back to centre-back in Tullamore as Joey Boland and then Michael Carton ran out of favour with the manager - the collateral damage being that the ball was not sticking up top after Rushe was relocated.
Last year’s Under-21 captain has become the capital’s firefighter. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was brought back to midfield against Tipperary to get a handle on the lively Brendan Maher, and both players effectively cancelled each other out. That is until Rushe was again needed back on the square late on to salvage the game with a goal. There is too much dependence on such young, albeit impressively broad, shoulders.
Which brings us to Dublin’s absentees. Ryan O’Dwyer was suspended and his lack of presence was felt - much as it was in the final 22 minutes of normal time after he was withdrawn in Tullamore, before being sent off in extra time. He may not be the most stylish hurler, a Henry Shefflin or a Richie Power or a Noel McGrath at 11, but he wins the ball and moves it on.
Most days, his main role is to provide little cogs to help the machine work. O’Dwyer also makes life that bit harder for defenders who are looking to clear the ball - a spoke in other defences’ wheels.
The importance to this team of Conal Keaney cannot be overstated. He ticks all the boxes filled by O’Dwyer but his impact on the scoreboard is greater; he averaged 0-7 per game in last year’s league. On any day when just two forwards bothered the scorekeepers, the clamour for injured players will always intensify. Every sportsman has seen a game in which his reputation has been increased by his absence from a struggling team.
Keaney - who would be a miss in boom times - is a creator too, something evidenced clearly in the Leinster championship against Offaly last year when Keaney set up 10 scoring chances.
Then there is the issue of Sutcliffe’s positioning at corner-forward. Alongside Conor Lehane, Sutcliffe has been the revelation of this year’s league… at wing-forward. Where he can snap ball, get a run on defenders and pick up bits to whittle out pieces around the middle of the field. It seemed a strange call to pen him into the corner.
The baldest fact is that Dublin have not won a league game in 2012. From seven games, they have just two draws to subsist on. Counties might well look to the league for performances but the competitive nature of this 1A campaign proved from the outset that no team wanted to get demoted. So for all the encouragement garnered from the performances against Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary, they may suffer for this year’s results next season in Division 1B.
Statistics can sometimes be convenient but for the sake of posterity, we’ll indulge in some numbers for a moment. In just one NHL game this season have Dublin hit 20 scores or more and that was against Galway (2-20) in the drawn game when it took them 90 minutes (they had 2-15 after 70 minutes) to do so. Waterford, who won 0-17 to 0-13 in Fraher Field, were the only side not to put together 20 scores against the Dubs in 70 minutes (Galway had 0-21 in normal time last Sunday week, for the record).
To put this in an overall context, 74% (14/19) of the time when a team hasn’t reached 20 scores in this league, they haven’t won the game; 75% of the time that a team has let in 20 scores (9/12) or more, they have lost. The point being that Dublin’s issues on the field are two-fold. The attack isn’t bailing out the defence, and vice-versa.
Just a few weeks ago, performances were more important than results for Dublin. Now, the performances are paling and the results are consequently emboldened.
They need only look at Galway’s quick recovery though - and remember that the story of 2012 will have April and everything before it as mere footnotes.
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