GAA Football

Analysis: Cavan victory was as much about Armagh's flaws

Kieran McGeeney's Armagh team were easily beaten by Cavan last weekend 
Cahair O'Kane

CAVAN scored an incredible 2-8 last Sunday off moves that saw Armagh fail to make a meaningful tackle on them.

Terry Hyland could view that two ways. His players could be elusive and hard to defend against, and some of their attacking play was good.

The way in which his side mixed it up was impressive. Keeping David Givney on the edge of the square always kept Armagh thinking. They had to try and protect Brendan Donaghy there as well as try and stop the runners coming through.

The latter was their biggest downfall of all.

Watching the game back, it was almost impossible to keep count of the number of times Armagh failed to complete a tackle inside their own 45’.

And Cavan carried the ball into areas that they ought to have been tackled in. If they do the same against Tyrone, they will not have the same success.

Lacking in the tackle

You see Conor Moynagh on the ball here, just on the edge of the Armagh 45’, with Rory Grugan facing him and a support tackler on his right shoulder.

Early in the game, Grugan fronts him up and stands his ground initially. It looks as though the Armagh man has the measure of it.

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BUT Moynagh simply outmuscles his opponent. He gets the legs pumping and pushes his way through Grugan. The second tackler hasn’t come across in time to make any impact on Moynagh’s progress.

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AS a result, the Drumgoon man bursts into the space behind. From there, it’s panic stations for the Armagh defence and eventually Ethan Rafferty has to come across and give away the free in front of goal.

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THIS was so typical of what happened across the whole 70 minutes. Armagh’s tackling all over the pitch lacked any of the kind of aggression they needed to cope with a powerful Cavan outfit.

The first goal was another such example. Martin Reilly starts the move out on the left wing.

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THE ball is transferred to the other wing, and then back again and worked in for the goal without a single Armagh hand laid on a Cavan player. The shot below is nine seconds after Reilly had the ball in hands and Cavan have been able to switch the ball without any pressure. Armagh have enough bodies back to deal with the situation though.

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CIAN Mackey gets lucky with his crossfield ball. He sees Reilly in space out on the wing but mis-hits his pass. However, Ciaron O’Hanlon hesitates in going to meet it and gets beaten by the bounce.

That lets Reilly in. Mark Shields, at this stage picking Reilly up, is circled just outside his own D’. Inside that, Cavan have a two-against-two, with Dara McVeety and David Givney going wide to create the space for Reilly to drive into. O’Hanlon isn’t able to make any impact with his tackle.

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BUT as you see here, Shields doesn’t react to McVeety’s movement. The Whitecross defender hasn’t recognised the goal threat and as a result, Rory Grugan has no option but to go across and meet Reilly.

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ON the shot where Cian Mackey kicks the crossfield ball, Armagh have 11 outfield players inside their own 45’. Yet they end up on the wrong side of a three-against-two scenario in front of their own goal.

There’s only so much Kieran McGeeney can do in terms of setting a team up. The Armagh players must shoulder a chunk of the responsibility for not putting any pressure on Cavan attackers.

As soon as the Orchard lost the ball, they quickly filtered back into position. In this image taken from a different Cavan move, you can see they have a spare man inside their 45’ in Ciaran McKeever, and five more all heading that way.

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THE bodies were plentiful. The tackles were not.

And that’s the reason why Cavan should be worried. They got so much joy inside the Armagh 45’ by carrying the ball into contact and using their strength to come out the other side of it.

You would not imagine that the Tyrone defence will let them away with it. If they carry into that maelstrom of white shirts the way they did at the weekend, they will not get breaking tackles so lightly.

Armagh's kickouts

THERE has been more than enough said about the decision to start Paul Courtney ahead of Paddy Morrison and, perhaps more pertinently, Matthew McNeice, who wasn’t included in Armagh’s matchday squad.

Ironically, Courtney had quite a 100 per cent success rate from his short kickouts. His accuracy off the tee over six or seven yards, kicking with the top of the foot, was actually quite impressive.

Any ‘keeper will tell you it’s often harder to kick it five yards with pace than it is to kick it 50 yards. The margin for error on the former is miniscule.

The give-and-go didn’t seem to be Plan A.

Problem was that Plan A was fatally flawed.

THIS was typical of Armagh’s shape on their own kickouts in the first half. Their half-back line stayed inside their own 45’, but made no real show for a short ball.

There were three, at most four, Armagh men in the middle on their own restarts. The idea appeared to be to create space on the wings. You can see Tony Kernan here darting into the space on the left wing as Courtney prepares to kick the ball. There’s no shortage of space in which the ‘keeper could drop the ball.

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THE above example was very early in the game. But as you see here, by the 20th minute, Cavan had the plan well and truly figured out. Notice how their forwards here are all on the defensive side of their opposite number.

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AND when Courtney kicked long, this is what happened. A 3v1 scenario, with Cavan always having just one jumper and two men down on the break.

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THE big flaw in the plan was Tomás Corr, Gearoid McKiernan and Michael Argue. They were taller than the men they were jumping against. Armagh’s plan relied wholly on winning the ball clean, and it didn’t work.

Kickouts to Martin Reilly

A VERY important part of the Cavan plan on Sunday. He was the winner of five of Raymond Galligan’s kickouts (not forgetting the two he poached off Armagh on the breaking ball as well).

There doesn’t look anything special about this but it’s clearly been well-rehearsed, and it’s something Tyrone will keep a tight eye on.

Here you see Galligan lining up his kick. He may be looking to his right but you can be sure he already knows exactly where he’s kicking to.

Dara McVeety, though, is creating a small problem in that he’s occupying the space Galligan wants to use.

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So very subtly, no big run looking for the ball, McVeety drifts infield. He’s either got a call from his ‘keeper to move, or he’s seen what’s coming himself. Either way, it works.

Here he is two seconds later, almost in the middle of the goal, and he’s pulled Aidan Forker in with him.

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That makes a potentially difficult kickout a relatively easy one for the excellent Galligan, who hit the target with 95 per cent of his kickouts on Sunday. He’s able to simply drop the ball into the space that McVeety has vacated, allowing Reilly to use it pace and take the ball on the bounce, rather than having to try and field it in the air.

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It was a move that worked well against Armagh, but Tyrone will surely be wiser to it in three weeks’ time.

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