GAA Talking points: Paddy Deegan and Co hold off Kilcormac-Killoughey charge

It was another dramatic weekend of action around the country
GAA Talking points: Paddy Deegan and Co hold off Kilcormac-Killoughey charge

Paddy Deegan of O'Loughlin Gaels is tackled by Oisín Mahon of Kilcormac-Killoughey in Tullamore. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Deegan and his crew repel the KK charge 

In his TG4 interview before they played O’Loughlin Gaels on Saturday, Kilcormac-Killoughey manager Shane Hand said that he was confident his side would produce a performance. Whether that would be good enough or not, Hand said that he side would still “not take a backward step”.

KK didn’t. Charlie Mitchel’s point in the 57th minute, which reduced the margin to three, neatly encapsulated that attitude. After Huw Lawlor was set on by a pack of KK forwards, Paddy Deegan was then floored. As Deegan tried to get the ball away, he was turned over by Damien Kilmartin, who passed into Mitchell to fire over. The roof nearly lifted off the stand. It almost flew off altogether with the racket when KK reduced the margin to two shortly afterwards.

KK were refusing to go backwards but, conversely, O’Loughlin’s were still doing everything to move forward in the face of that relentless second half onslaught. From there to the final whistle, O’Loughlin’s converted their three shots; KK failed to nail their two chances. A five-point winning margin may have been rough justice on KK but O’Loughlin’s won the game in the first half, before digging in to repel the desperate KK second half charge.

Nobody typified that more than Deegan, who made 23 plays in total, 14 of which came in the second half. O’Loughlin’s other two Kilkenny defenders - Lawlor and Mikey Butler – also had productive games. They made 19 plays (combined) but the productivity of their numbers is perfectly reflected in the players they blotted out, KK’s two inside forwards who had caused rack against Naomh Éanna – Adam Screeney and James Gorman.

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Screeney had the ball in his hand just once; Gorman had just three possessions in total. Butler had more shots than both of those KK forwards had in total. Mitchell, playing in a more withdrawn role, did pick up the slack with three points from four shots but KK needed Screeney and Gorman fully firing to have a real chance.

Screeney is still only 18 and is still learning at this level, but this was a big step up for KK, who probably showed O’Loughlin’s too much respect in the first half. The Kilkenny side were playing with the breeze but they had 11 more shots in that half and should have been out of sight at the break.

O’Loughlin’s needed to defend with their lives in the last quarter but they have made a habit of shutting down teams; this was their fourth consecutive clean sheet. O’Loughlin’s may not have the marquee individual firepower of Ballyhale but their scoring spread has been seriously impressive; they’ve had 14 different scorers from play in their last three matches.


Scotstown show their steel again 

Peripheral all afternoon, Conor McCarthy showed in one move why he was an All-Star last week and why he is one of the most dangerous half-backs in football. Trillick’s Daniel Donnelly had done a brilliant job in penning McCarthy back all afternoon but as Shane Carey came raiding with only seconds remaining in normal time, McCarthy hugged the sideline, aware that Donnelly would get sucked into blocking the channel. As soon as Carey passed the 45-metre line, McCarthy sprinted in, changing the angle of his run perfectly to dart between Donnelly and Ryan Gray to take the pass from Carey and land a brilliant equaliser.

It was just one brilliant score of an absorbing, brutally hard-hitting but enthralling match, which Scotstown won in extra-time. It was also the second successive game in Ulster that the Monaghan side showed incredible composure when the heat was like a furnace. Mining that score from a kickout underlined that ice in their veins but the main source of their scores all afternoon emphasised the intensity and savagery they brought to the contest throughout; 11 of their 17 points came from turnovers.

The main source of Trillick’s scores neatly encapsulated the contrasting styles of attack – the Tyrone side scored 0-9 off their own kickout, while their goal stemmed from a Scotstown kickout that melted into a Trillick possession from incessant heat.

Trillick engaged Scotstown from every angle. Anytime Rory Beggan came out the field, James Garrity was detailed to man-mark him. Trillick’s overall plan almost worked. Almost.

Clonmel fail again to crack the Kerry code 

When Clonmel Commercials turned over Nemo Rangers in last year’s Munster quarter-final, it wasn’t a huge shock considering that no other club – outside of Kerry – had a better track record of beating renowned Cork teams.

Commercials had taken big Cork scalps in the past; as well as beating Nemo in the 2015 final, they’d also taken out an experienced St Finbarr’s side in the 1990 semi-final. Cracking the Kerry code though, has never been straightforward for the Tipp side; in their last eight clashes (across five decades, including replays) Commercials beat their Kerry opponents just once.

In 1994, Clonmel turned over Austin Stacks in Tralee, while they were unlucky on two other occasions, losing to Castleisland Desmonds in the 1982 final after a replay, and going down to Dr Crokes after extra-time in a replay in 1990.

The previous year, Laune Rangers beat them by 12 points in the Clonmel Sportsground while Commercials were well beaten by Crokes in 2012 and 2017. With their greater experience in the competition, and having beaten Nemo last year, Commercials were marginal favourites amongst some bookies against Dingle yesterday.

This a good Dingle team but Commercials again failed to crack the Kerry code.

Glen on and off the Mark 

Six minutes into Saturday evening’s Glen-Naomh Conaill Ulster semi-final, Michael Warnock kicked a ball straight down the outside channel to Conleth McGuckian who was standing between the 13 and 20 metre lines about 15 metres in from the sideline. As soon as he secured possession, McGuckian raised his left hand to signal the mark. It was a tricky angle but the Glen player nailed it.

It was Glen’s first score but it was the first instance of a tactic that Glen clearly came to exploit. The Derry side had clearly done extensive homework because they’d observed - as far back as last year’s Donegal drawn and replayed finals against St Eunan’s – how opportunities arose on the flanks outside the D given how narrow Naomh Conaill defended.

Over the 60 plus minutes, Glen took six marks from those areas of the pitch. In the last ten minutes alone, Glen took four attacking marks. As a comparison, there was only one mark over the 80 plus minutes in yesterday’s Scotstown-Trillick match, which didn’t result in a shot.

The biggest difficulty for Glen though, was their accuracy and efficiency from that tactic; from five shots from marks, that early one from McGuckian was the only one they converted.

That told a large part of the story of this match; Glen had eight more shots than the Donegal side but their conversion rate was only 41%. Still, when the need was greatest, Glen found a way. In the final act, off a Glen kickout that just squirmed away from the fingertips of Naomh Conaill’s Ciarán Thompson, the Derry side stitched six passes together in 18 seconds before Conor Glass set up Emmett Doherty for the equalising score.

In the end, Glen got the job done. Just.

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