IMITATION, it’s said, is the sincerest form of flattery and on Sunday old Kilkenny meets new Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC final. Yes, it’s the Cats versus the Dubs, but when the high-profile Kilkenny players take up their positions, they’ll be looking at a mirror image of themselves.
By Diarmuid O’Flynn
Who says? Liam Rushe. And he should know.
“We’ve pretty much stolen their whole game-plan,” admitted Liam.
“It (the gameplan) was never a secret anyway, they’ve been at the top for so long. Hurling is a simple game and that’s the way they play it.
“They don’t give you a second when you’re on the ball and when they get it themselves they hit it as early and as long as possible. You don’t see Tommy Walsh always trying to deliver the perfect pin-point pass, he’ll just get it out of their own danger area as fast as possible and up into your danger area. You can try and play the possession-type game but mostly you just get the ball and drive it up to the forwards and hopefully they’ll be able to finish the job.”
Cork managed to develop that possession game and were hugely successful with it for a few years. But that, says Liam, was until Kilkenny sussed them out in the All-Ireland final of 2006.
“They sat back, let Cork try and solo and pass their way through them, but they had packed the defence, won the ball and moved it back out immediately over Cork’s heads. That system worked fantastically for Cork for a few years but Kilkenny worked it out. We find that the short-passing game, especially in your own defence, is a recipe for disaster. Better off to have the ball up in your full-forward line rather than your own half-back line.”
This of course is especially true of Dublin now, with Dotsy O’Callaghan and Paul Ryan ready to pounce on the breaks from Peadar Carton but also able to battle for their own ball, a pre-requisite for any Kilkenny player under Brian Cody. “In 2009 there was just the two of us up there, myself and Dotsy and we looked around and saw Messrs Hickey, Kavanagh and Tyrell beside us — wasn’t easy.”
Back then, that Leinster final, Rushe was a converted full-forward. Alan McCrabbe, the third nominated member of the full-forward line, actually played as a third midfielder as Dublin went all defensive.
This year, Dublin’s ambitions are very real. The league title was a boon but the championship is still where it’s at and Dublin see themselves as genuine contenders. Despite some reservations over how good Kilkenny were in that final and Galway’s pedigree, Dublin won those games because this is a seriously talented side.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head there, haven’t you?” he said. “That’s it, it’s always ‘Kilkenny or Galway didn’t play well, they weren’t on their game’, when maybe the reason they weren’t on their game was because they were being put under serious pressure, our backs hassling them so much they were hitting shots from difficult angles and distances, and hitting them wide.
“We’ve earned a little more respect this year with the league win, and then finally taking a big scalp in beating Galway in the championship.”
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, July 01, 2011
Article Source: Examiner.ie