Dublin Club Hurling

Lucan Sarsfield’s v Kilmacud Croke’s: Hurling Semi-final Preview

By  | 

Kilmacud go into this match as the slight bookies’ favourites. Lucan, however, having dispatched the favoured Ballyboden in the quarter-final, won’t worry too much about being underdogs again.

Lucan Defence v Kilmacud Attack

If Lucan are to upset the odds again, they will have to overcome a different type of opponent than last time out. Ballyboden’s attack, especially in the second half, were significantly less athletic than what they will face from a youthful Croke’s side. This factor, plus the smaller O’Toole Park pitch, allowed the Lucan half back line to dominate large parts of the match.

The Croke’s forward line appear to be in perpetual motion. While they maintain shape, individual players move around constantly, creating more difficult conditions to defend in. With the O’Rourke brothers, Fergal Whitely and Caolán Conway, Kilmacud have pace in abundance and will look to create match ups to exploit this pace.

Lucan’s half back line, along with Ciarán Dowling as sweeper (if they play with a sweeper), are a launchpad for a lot of what’s good about them.

Chris Crummey’s reading of the game, ball winning ability and distribution at the centre of this line had a large baring on their quarter final victory. Fergal Whitely will more than likely hold the centre forward position more than Niall Ryan from Boden did, and keeping Crummey busy will go a long way towards reducing the impact this line has on the match.

In this regard, the absence of Ryan O’Dwyer could be felt more than in the previous two matches he has been injured for. O’Dwyer’s “Swing first and ask questions later” style of play could have been just what would be needed to keep the Lucan defence on the back foot. I’m sure many neutrals would have liked to have seen old Dublin teammates O’Dwyer and Johnny McCaffrey do battle under puck outs.

McCaffrey in action in the 2016 semi

Ciarán Dowling at sweeper was the winning of the game for Lucan against Boden. However, Lucan only managed two points after he dropped back. Had they not built up a lead by that point, surely a sitting sweeper would have been a luxury thy could not have afforded. If Lucan have to come from behind on Sunday, or if they don’t build enough of a lead, you would have to expect them to keep a 6-2-6 formation.

Expect Croke’s puck-outs to be kept towards the wings. This A) allows space to play diagonal balls in front of their pacey forwards. B) Forces Crummey to move from the centre if he wants to have the influence he had in previous rounds.

Kilmacud Defence v Lucan Attack

There are questions to be asked of Crokes’ ability to get to match pace straight away. They have gotten off to disastrous starts in two of the four championship games they have played this year as well as conceding an early goal against St Vincents. They trailed by 1-5 to no score after 22 minutes of last year’s final. Add to this the amount of unnecessary frees they conceded early against Na Fianna in the quarter final and there is a clear problem.

As previously stated, if Lucan are allowed to build a lead, then the option of playing a sweeper and swarming their defence opens for them. Peter Kelly will not be 100% fit if/wherever/for however long he plays. Even with limited mobility, he caused Simon Lambert problems on puck-outs in the quarter finals. Along with Paul Crummey, Lucan have two big, ball winning half forwards. You would expect Ross O’Carroll to give as good as he gets against either of them, but there is a potential high percentage ball winner in the other.

Cokes’ defence in action

Kevin Roche in the Lucan goal, has an unorthodox swing that doesn’t lend itself well to last second changes, so expect Kelly and Crummey to be the target of most of his puck-outs.

In Tommy Sommers, Lucan have a more than capable free taker who will punish any indiscipline in the Crokes’ defence early on. With no marquee forward as such, Lucan’s midfield and half back line frequently drive forward to help in the attack. Matt McCaffery’s goal in the quarter final didn’t come about by accident and Croke’s discipline in tracking these runs and not allowing uncontested strikes at goal will be crucial.

In Niall Corcoran, Kilmacud have a top rate man marking corner back, who can also sweep efficiently if required. If Dowling, or any other Lucan forward, drops back as a sitting sweeper, I would expect Corcoran to play as the spare man in front of his full back line.

Verdict

Although I’m wary of writing off Lucan after their fantastic display in the last round, I feel certain dynamics worked in their favour that they that won’t on Sunday. If Kilmacud can avoid a slow start, and can occupy the Lucan half back line enough to thwart their influence on the game, I would expect the bigger pitch and the calibre of their forwards to be enough to get Croke’s over the line

By Conor Dunne

@ConorDunne90 

@grassrootsgaa