Libero : Correct Application

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*the follwong is an exert from the section titled “The Textbook Libero Flaw” from the book “Understanding Gaelic Football, a theoretical guidebook” written by Stephen O’Meara. It illustrates a general principle as a opposed to a carbon copy of the situation referenced in the Plunkett’s Castleknock preview*

Though you may get away with it, as explained above, essentially if you want to guarantee not having your “libero system” taken advantage of at the worst of times, and to generally maximise the effectiveness of the libero system at the best of times, you’ll want to use a libero as part of a “blanket-defence” system, at least to some extent. This is looked at in greater detail in the chapter relating to the “Space, the Blanket Defence and Evolution of Tactics” chapter under the heading “The Libero System” but suffice to say for now, that the theoretically inevitable over-lap explained above, should not be allowed to happen (see figure below)

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In its simplest terms, without going into huge detail, this means that at the very least, if their libero (or free man) tries to pass any player from as far up-field as your half forward line, unless your team already has more than one surplus player behind the ball, the closest player on your team to him needs to leave his man, who is now less of a threat, and follow their spare man as he moves up-field. The basic premise of using a libero is that the spare man which it creates on their team should not be let roam free beyond his own half back line unless your team already has more than one surplus player behind the ball.

Their spare man should be the far side of the central area of the field. This means that whatever way the opposition set up, your libero should remain as an extra defender (see figure 21 illustrating the number ten) following the opposition’s libero up-field and leaving his man, the half back, in the significantly less dangerous position. Essentially, this means that a team utilising a libero should be implementing a “blanket-defence” in some shape or form, even minimally so.

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Figure 21

By minimally, I mean that as long as there is an understanding that their libero will be picked up if he moves up-field and an opponent in a less forward position left free, then a “blanket defence” of sorts will be organically set up as you get more men back and still have a libero spare at the back. It’s still not a perfect situation because of the potential domino effect which can occur if the opposition’s left half back (as illustrated in figure 21), who was left free when the libero was picked up, then moved forward.

In theory, he could then be picked up and another opponent in a less dangerous/forward position left free, in keeping with the same principal as before. This, however, is an imperfect situation too, as there will be a delay each time the domino effect moves to the next step and your next closest forward may not be close enough pick up the free wing back, before he moves into a dangerous position (see figure 22).

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Figure 22

Essentially, if the next closest forward had been thinking two steps ahead and had moved into position to prevent this, or if the forward line had been moving back to defend against this as a unit, you’d avoid this problem. But then that’s the crux of the matter. If the forward line were working as a unit and defending this space in advance, that is, in fact, the entire essence of what a “blanket defence” is and how it works. That is, getting surplus players behind the ball in advance of the opposition reaching point kicking distance and ensuring that the libero is always left free to cover space, and that the opposition’s spare players are all the far side of the front line of the “blanket defence” (see figure 23).

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Figure 23

And therein lies the crux of the matter. Basically, if you are using a libero, it should go hand in hand with a “blanket-defence”. Otherwise, there’s a very good chance that it will cause more harm than good. For more detail on this, see the “Space”, the “Blanket-Defence” and the “Evolution of Tactics” chapter where the three methods of forming a “blanket defence” are outlined under sections titled “The Libero System”, “The Holding/Dropping Midfielder” and “Whole Team Channelling”.