Dublin Ladies Football

Ballyboden St Enda’s vs Foxrock Cabinteely : Match Report

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Ballyboden/St Enda’s 1-5 – 3-14 Foxrock/Cabinteely

The Fox-Cab machine rolled on last Wednesday evening as they ruthlessly put Ballyboden St. Enda’s to the sword, all but mathematically guaranteeing their semi-final berth, with the two primary contenders in the group now beaten.

In the early stages, however, things had looked ominous for the Fox-Cab girls as Ballyboden took an early lead and looked like they might take the game to the champions. Two elements were key for Boden early on.

Firstly, Fox-Cab’s Fiona Calffey had tried and failed twice to take on and beat Boden centre back, Rachel Ruddy. Appearing as though this pattern would continue, with the centre of Fox-Cab’s attack appearing compromised at its fulcrum, Boden appeared well set up to stifle them up front.

At the other end, Aoife O’Brien, wearing 15, was deployed as a roving third midfielder, while another half forward typically drifted deep too, essentially leaving Boden playing a 6-4-2-2.

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Aoife O’Brien was deployed as Ballyboden play-maker

As Fox-Cab initially defended “man-on-man” against four forwards, it left them terribly exposed at the back.

In the opening minutes, a long ball into the box, after Boden had attacked swiftly into Fox-Cab’s “man-on-man” defence, broke in front of midfielder, Emily Flannagan, who netted, giving Boden the ideal start.

Fox-Cab, being the formidable force that they are, however, hit back. The first point from centre back, Tara Ní Mhurchaoha, was key, not so much in that it opened up the scoring for Fox-Cab, but that it began a pattern, one of three key elements, which would be key to their ruthless victory.

From start to finish, Boden would have immense trouble trying to clear their lines from their own kick-outs. When they went long, they were more or less dominated. Even when they won long ones, they tended to be harassed into turnovers by Fox-Cab’s immense pressure game.

When they went short, they ran the risk of giving away soft goal chances to the Fox-Cab full forward line, or at best, gained possession in a textbook statistical danger-zone – playing short kick-outs to the full back line more than 9.5 seconds after the ball has gone dead.

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Boden found themselves under pressure in all areas

Zonal Kick-out Analysis from GaaProStats shows time and again that you’re far more likely to concede upon the first turn-over than score on your initial possession on these kick-outs, across the board.

The following ten minutes saw Boden fail to clear their lines and face a barrage of attacks. The first saw, Laura Nerney, with what was presumably a pointed effort, drop a 25 or so yard shot, under the bar, just over the keeper’s reach and into the roof of the net.

Points by Amy Ring from a free after Sinéad Goldrick was fouled, and another from Amy Connelly, put them 1-3 to 1-0 to the good before Boden would clear their lines on the kick-out and register their next score from a Simmone Reilly free after Claire Kirwan was fouled.

For a brief period, it appeared as though the game was going to take on a tennis like pattern, with clearing the lines on kick-outs being akin to breaking serve as Fox-Cab briefly struggled as Boden had earlier.

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Boden’s Emily Flannagan on the attack

In fact, to this point, the sides looked more or less balanced. Boden had missed a very scoreable free and Fox-Cab had scored a rather fortuitous goal. Had Boden been slightly more fortunate, they could have led by 1-2 to 0-3 nearing the quarter hour mark.

From this point on, however, it was simply one way traffic. One key tactical switch and all that is brilliant about Fox-Cab came to the fore.

Initially exposed “man-on-man” at the back, full back, Aideen Murray, was instructed to sit in the hole and mind the house.

With the vociferous appetite, as always, of midfielders Goldrick and Niamh Collins, as well as Nerney at wing forward, to sprint at full pace and get back behind the ball when the opposition attack, the delay that dealing with the sitting Murray caused, for the rest of the night, completely stifled any Boden attempts to add to the score-board.

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Ciara crotty “man-marks” while Aideen Murray holds the space

Saying that, if Fox-Cab are to be All-Ireland favourites, I’d be confident that a slightly more complex tactical plan would be required to be fancied against an equally athletic side who would apply the same strategy of a roaming “corner forward”.

General tactical consensus is that there are two options to deal with this tactic – go “man-on-man” and leave the space the opposition want to create, or leave the defender to sit in the space, as Murray did, and allow the opposition a free roamer.

There is, in fact, a third option I’d be far more partial to, which avoids both of these problems, but requires a re-shuffle.

On the night, however, against a side Fox-Cab were hugely athletically superior to, it was just the ticket.

With the tactics turned on their heads, it would come to be all Fox-Cab for the remainder, and all that was good about them came to the fore.

Their use of width, with corner backs and wing backs hugging the line to create space to play the ball out of the back. Their ability to weave through this area of the field with the afore-mentioned space created. Their appetite to get back behind the ball by sprinting flat out when the opposition had the ball. Their full forward line’s capacity to get out in front and win ball. Perhaps, most crucially, their incessant and perfectly timed runs from behind the ball, coming of the shoulder, like waves in an unabated sea storm.

They simply began to over-run Boden.

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Fox-Cab came off the shoulder from behind, throughout

Connelly, Goldrick and Hannah O’Neill at wing forward added points before a second somewhat fortuitous goal, once again dropping under the bar from a pointed effort, this time from Claffey, and it was 2-6 to 1-2.

Granted, while Claffey’s finish had been fortunate, the manner in which she initially cut open the Boden defence alluded to how she had come to dominate affairs up front, after initially looking like she might struggle. She would be one of the key players on the night, constantly coming off the shoulder, breaking the line and spreading passes.

To be fair to her marker, Ruddy, it wasn’t that she particularly came to dominate her directly, that she was the fulcrum of a dominant Fox-Cab attack.

By half time, it was 2-8 to 1-2 and appeared to be done and dusted.

With simply too much, all over the field, Fox-Cab continued to dominate in the second half, even playing into a reasonable wind.

Connelly, another key performer on the night, operating as a play-maker, continued to spray delicious passes around the field from the half forward line/midfield area. All the while, she scored five points from play.

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Amy Connelly gave a play-making master-class, with five points to boot

The runs from midfielders Goldrick and Collins were incessant, both attacking and defending, as were wing forward, Nerney’s from wing forward. Goldrick would score/be fouled for the free for five points in total, all the while making at least two dispossessions coming from more than ten yards behind the ball.

Hannah O’Neill brought a subtle balance to affairs, with Claffey frequently breaking the line. Ciara Murphy picked the right kick-out option time and again.

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Hannah O’Neill brought a subtle balance to the Fox-Cab attack

Up front, albeit in a super “man-marking” battle with Boden corner back, Jenny Walsh, who limited the potential damage significantly, Ring’s pacey runs were too much to handle all evening long.

Ní Mhurchaoha looked like she had the capacity to break the line from the centre back as much as the need would arise. Tarah O’Sullivan’s “man-marking” was superb, and more or less choked off what looked like a significant threat on the wing. All the while, Sarah Brophy at wing back epitomised the term “tidy defender”, being quietly but meticulously efficient in her marking and possession.

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Sarah Brophy marks tightly

Corner back, Ciara Crotty, looked like she had the boot and the head to be playing centre back, on the odd occasion the need arose.

For all that was good about Fox-Cab, Boden’s cause wasn’t helped by the fact that their forward line befell the oldest error in the book and drifted out the field, leaving their furthest player up-field, 45 yards from goal for over half of the game.

Even when driving runs from Ciara Ruddy at wing back, in particular, as well as Rachel Ruddy from centre back and Emily Flannagan from midfield pierced the middle third area in the second half, and when Claire Kirwan made penetrative runs from the wing, they inevitably had to check back, owing to the lack of an option to play quick, direct ball into the danger area.

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Boden’s attack is deserted with their solitary forward forty yards from goal

Inevitably against Fox-Cab, this allowed Goldrick, Collins and Nerney to sprint behind the ball and force Boden to try to break down a formidable ten or eleven strong defence.

The introduction of Hannah Hyland off the bench gave Boden an added bit of drive up front, but a third Fox-Cab goal, the second of the night from Nerney, was a further nail in the coffin, making it 3-11 to 1-3. Once again, the goal came after they’d won a Boden kick-out

Boden would come stronger in the final quarter, but even as Fox-Cab emptied the bench, including replacing their entire half forward line, they would out-score Boden by three points to two in the final stages and run out emphatic winners at 3-14 to 1-5.

Ballyboden/St Enda’s : Jenny Flaherty, Jenny Walsh, Liz Coldan, Rachel Nugent, Maria Hoey, Rachel Ruddy, Ciara Ruddy, Dee Lawless, Emily Flannagan, Ciara Duffy, Elaine McGrath, Claire Kirwan, Simmone Reilly, Mairéad Luttrell, Aoife O’Brien Subs : Hannah Hyland, Katie Murphy, Beth Molloy, Aoife Martin. Scorers E Flannagan 1-1, Simmone Reilly 0-2 (two frees), Rachel Ruddy 0-1, K Murphy 0-1

Foxrock/Cabinteely : Ciara Murphy, Ciara Crotty, Aideen Murray, Emma McDonagh, Tarah O’Sullivan, Tara Ní Mhurchaoha, Sarah Brophy, Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh Collins, Hannah O’Neill, Fiona Claffey, Laura Nerney, Amy Connelly, Ann-Marie Murphy, Amy Ring Subs : Cara Cooke, Eimear O’Herlihy, Sarah Quinn, Hannah Foster-Ryan, Ciara O’Riardan Scorers : L Nerney 2-0, A Connelly 0-5, F Claffey 1-1, A Ring 0-4 (0-4 frees), S Goldrick 0-2, H O’Neill 0-1, M Murphy 0-1

Report by Stephen O’Meara : Photos by Eleanor Ruddy and Stephen O’Meara