Sunday 20 October 2019

Johnny: Wexford runners must be stopped by dubs

Former Dublin captain expects positive response to last week's disappointing defeat to Kilkenny

Dublin’s Shane Barrett in action against Shaun Murphy of Wexford during their Leinster SHC Round 2 match at Innovate Wexford Park last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Shane Barrett in action against Shaun Murphy of Wexford during their Leinster SHC Round 2 match at Innovate Wexford Park last year. Photo: Sportsfile

By his own admission, Johnny McCaffrey made the trip to Nowlan Park last Saturday more in expectation than in hope.

"I was fairly confident. I know it was never going to be easy to come out with a win in Nowlan Park but I just felt Dublin were a bit further along than Kilkenny, especially with the injuries." the former Dublin captain explains.

After 35 minutes, McCaffrey's faith seemed vindicated.

Dublin played some of the most varied and cohesive hurling of the past five years in that first half in the most hostile of environments.

"They should have been six or seven up at half-time," he reckons.

"In fairness the changes Kilkenny made played a big part in it. They got on a roll and Dublin couldn't stem the tide.

"They ended up going route one but with Walsh going back to centre-back and Huw Lawlor going to full-back, their half-back line came into it and Dublin probably played into their hands a little bit."

Whether through inexperience or simply the counteraction to a more intense Kilkenny challenge in the second half, Dublin deviated from plan noticably in the second period.

Yet there was enough positive play in that first half when the team played to script to allow Mattie Kenny to simply emphasise this week the importance of sticking tightly to his system, particularly when the pressure comes on - as inevitably it will against Wexford on Sunday.


Which, as McCaffrey explains, is probably a good thing for the Dublin manager given the narrow window in which to significantly change the way his team set up.

"I don't think there's much scope to change it," McCaffrey stresses.

"Because with it being so tight, every game is important. If you come fourth, you're at nothing. If you come fifth, it's relegation.

"They really would be looking at getting two home wins against two good opposition because Parnell has been such a fortress for us.

"It is worth a couple of points. I'd expect the lads to win at the weekend even though Wexford will be coming in focused for their first match."

They also present a mostly different set of challenges to Kilkenny, as McCaffrey outlines.

"Their running game is very good. Their half-back line especially...their half-backs are like football half-backs.

"They're tearing forward and they're nearly extra forwards when Wexford have the ball. So it's about trying to pin them back and trying not to allow them on the front foot.

"You need to have trackers on their runners all the time.

"Because they can all score - that's the other thing about their backs as well. They're used to scoring from long range."

This licence to shoot from distance presents a more complex test of Dublin's defensive organistion.

"They're probably going to try and isolate Conor McDonald in the full-forward line and I wouldn't be surprised if they have Lee Chin in the half-forward line to try and occupy Seán Moran," McCaffrey outlines.

"So I'm sure Eoghan O'Donnell will mark Conor McDonald and probably Shane Barrett will mark Lee Chin and let Moran sweep. But it could be the other players who do the damage.

"Davy will probably have four or five or six across the middle and they'll run from there and shoot from distance if they have to."

McCaffrey played against Wexford last January in a fraught Walsh Cup match but his abiding memory was the perpetual motion energy of Fitzgerald's team.

"You think Parnell Park is a small pitch but they were running at us from all angles," he recalls.

"They have support runners and runners off the shoulder.

"It's hard to defend against. So it doesn't matter if they only have one man in their inside forward - they'll create plenty of scoring chances."

Yet for all the tactical complexity of the game, McCaffrey sees a traditional method of winning it.

"I'd hope Dublin would go man-on-man and win more battles than they lose," he says.

"But you need a system where if Lee Chin drops back into his half-back line, someone else picks him up so Shane Barrett or whoever is marking him isn't a hundred yards away from his own goal.

"A lot of it is about communication," McCaffrey adds, "and everyone understanding their roles".

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