Have St Finbarr's gained a psychological edge over Nemo Rangers?

You would imagine, tactically, Nemo Rangers’ management will detail Alan Cronin to man-mark St Finbarr’s Stephen Sherlock from the off next Sunday in the replay of the Cork SFC final, writes Peter McNamara.

In the first edition of the tale, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Aidan O’Reilly began the final by picking up the Barr’s primary marksman – Sherlock registering 0-8 including the leveller to force the replay.

O’Reilly was excellent in the first-half for Larry Kavanagh’s side.

Stephen Sherlock, of St Finbarr's, kicks under pressure. Pic: Sportsfile

Yet, Sherlock still managed to gain a number of advantageous possessions in this period without truly making them count.

Next Sunday, Nemo would be better-served, you would think, stationing Alan Cronin on Sherlock with their captain negating Robert O’Mahony, assuming Ray Keane deploys O’Mahony from the first whistle.

Cronin is a shrewd man-marker whereas O’Reilly is an out-and-out full-back, better-equipped to marshal the full-back line as an entity rather than specifically targeting curbing a sharpshooter of Sherlock’s ilk. This subtle switch might, at least, reduce Sherlock’s threat.

Larry Kavanagh. Pic: INPHO

Kavanagh, though, would argue their original plan was working sufficiently well until the second half.

It was, too, but only due to Sherlock being wasteful in open play and the Barr’s approach of sitting off Nemo in the first-half as Micheál Aodh Martin could pick out men lurking around the half-back line from his restarts.

Ray Keane. Pic: INPHO

As soon as Keane’s men pushed up on Martin’s kick-outs, the pressure placed upon the likes of O’Reilly told as Nemo were then, obviously, forced to defend, first and foremost, rather than sit or supplement counter-attacks.

If the penny hadn’t dropped, and the Barr’s continued to drop off Nemo, the latter would have won by at least eight points as the game seemed to be developing in that manner.

Basically, pressing high up on Nemo’s restarts brought the Barr’s greatest weapon into play: Ian Maguire.

The 23-year-old was probably the Barr’s greatest positive from an otherwise concerning first-half. Keane, afterwards, stressed he wasn’t “panicking” but let’s be honest, it’s easy to say so publicly in hindsight. It would take a customer with ice in their veins to not panic even a little given the scenario his team stared into in the second half.

Yes, as Keane said, the Barr’s, in terms of opportunities created, were essentially on a par with their opponents, but that didn’t change the fact they had to claw back a six-point deficit following the break, a lead Nemo then padded out to seven points prior to the Barr’s revival.

The reality is the Barr’s were close to beaten docket territory at half-time and after Barry O’Driscoll added Nemo’s 11th point after the interval it looked as if the Barr’s faithful would have been heading for the exits long before the full-time whistle.

However, forcing Martin to go long meant Maguire soared, literally and figuratively, throughout a second half in which the first-half scoreline was mirrored.

That is now the primary issue for Nemo, finding a way to regain parity at midfield as the Barr’s will surely maintain their revised strategy of high-pressing.

One possible means of achieving this would be to start with Michael Dorgan in place of, say, Kevin Fulignati with the former’s height a supplementary asset to the middle-third for Nemo.

After Dorgan empties the tank the legs of Fulignati could then be utilised.

Alternatively, Dorgan might act as a direct replacement at midfield for Jack Horgan and then, midway through the second half, the latter can go back into the mix.

Kavanagh and his selectors will have to concoct a plan that facilitates better options for Martin to aim at from his kick-outs, despite the expected pressure.

If Martin is left to drive the ball into 50/50 situations it will suit the Barr’s.

Additionally, Nemo will be conscious of the need to have more support runners in advance of the ball-carrier.

Nemo Rangers' Alan Cronin Jr. Pic: Sportsfile

Nemo attacks were, of course, far rarer in the second half. However, the ones that did come about more often than not broke down because of so few options in front of the man in possession.

Too often Nemo players had to go laterally or turn around to pop a pass to a teammate.

Credit for this has to go to the Barr’s as well as they had Nemo rattled enough that some of those behind the ball were less inclined to power into space.

Then again, it has to be remembered the conditions must have been exceptionally sapping on the players who deserve immense praise for the spectacle that was produced on the day.

The underfoot conditions in particular would have been difficult, slippery in places.

Usually, when one team roars back into a final and forces a draw the consensus is that unit have the momentum in advance of a replay.

That could well be the case and the Barr’s might now go on and lift the Andy Scannell Cup.

However, there is much more in Nemo’s tank as well. Individually, their players will know they have at least 15% more to give, especially those with inter-county experience.

Pic: Sportsfile

Therefore, it would be foolish to suggest the Barr’s now have a distinct advantage, as some have.

Yet, they are, presently, in a position whereby their confidence levels will be heightened currently.

Youthful, but hugely promising attackers such as Cillian Myers Murray will have invaluable county final-day experience deposited in the bank now, too.

So the Barr’s have bridged a psychological gap to their more storied rivals.

Have they narrowed it enough, though?


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