St Jude’s vs Cuala – Analysis Report

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St. Jude’s 0-16 – 1-7 Cuala

It was classic St Jude’s at Parnell Park on Sunday as they maintained full control throughout in their quarter-final victory over Cuala.

From start to finish, playing their methodical game, countering at pace when the opportunity arose, and playing “pick and poke” football when the quick attack wasn’t on, they simply ground Cuala into submission, slowly but surely.

As ever, their defence looked impenetrable for the most part. Three of the four notable breaches from start to finish, came from the very source you’d expect – Con O’Callaghan.

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O’Callaghan breaks the line but fires over

It was his second such run, early in the second half, which reduced Judes’ brilliant defence to an imitation of itself. He rounded two players, from a seemingly unthreatening position, to create the goal, on a plate for Dara Spillane, to fist home at the back post. Cuala fans and neutrals, alike, hoped it would spark things into life. It brought the score-line to 0-10 to 1-5.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Cuala wouldn’t register a score against the bolt-like Jude’s defence for the next 25 minutes, by which point the Templeogue men were eight points to the good, and not looking particularly like they’d be breached for the goals Cuala needed.

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Judes’ defence was solid

From the off, Judes’ philosophy regarding O’Callaghan was admirable. I’d expected that they’d put marquee man-marker Rob Martina on him. With O’Callaghan starting at full forward, however, that would have put the corner back out of position.

There was no hassle, no fuss. Paul Cunningham was number 3 and he marked him. O’Callaghan saw precious little delivery from that position early on, before moving to centre forward. Once again, no hassle, no fuss – number 6, Chris Guckian picked him up.

From the off, it was clear that significant work had gone into both sides’ kick-outs. Cuala had made plans to get the kicks off short. While Jude’s did sometimes try to push man-on-man, initially, Cuala typically got them off to the full back line, anyway. Despite their efforts to stop them, Jude’s didn’t seem too pushed about conceding possession.

Once they Cuala gained possession, Jude’s typically dropped off and set up their efficient zonal defence.


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Cuala had trouble penetrating the middle third

Their game-plan works within the parameters of everything my few thousand kick-out’s worth of Zonal Kick-out Analysis have shown. At club level, if you don’t get the short kick-out off within 9.5 seconds, you’re more likely to concede a score on the counter-attack after the first turnover than you are to score from the initial possession.

And even if you do get the kick-out of inside 9.5 seconds, you’re more likely to concede than score if you don’t breach “the Killer Quarter” quickly (the area roughly a quarter of the field ahead of where the kick-out is won).

Interestingly, the one Dublin club to break that mould are Vincent’s, their semi-final opposition!

Cuala, however, fell into the standard bracket regarding these stats, an element which more or less summed up their woes. As so many sides that have gone before them against Jude’s, even getting off the kick-outs quickly, they just couldn’t penetrate the middle third.

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Only once in the first half did they manage to turn their quick kick-out into an attack that left Judes’ defence any less organised than they’d have been happy with. On that occasion, a superb man-marking interception by corner back Ciarán Fitzpatrick, thwarted them.

It was one of three interceptions he would make in the first half when Cuala had built ideal attacking circumstances, a significant element in how the opening thirty minutes payed out.

As ever, Jude’s, had the double option of the long ball into the ball winning Declan Donnelly at full forward, or handing ball to Kevin McManamon as he “pivoted” towards the ball to looked to take on the defence single-handedly. Niall Coakley also offered an “out” up front making difficult runs to cope with.

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Donnelly was the target man up front

McManamon had the man-marking of Mick Fitzsimons to deal with, but still managed to kick two points and earn another scored free in the first half. In total, he would score three points, be fouled for two scored frees and make the key line break for one more point.

In fact, it could have been 1-3 in the first half, when Jude’s overlapped their way to him for what seemed like a certain goal, only for Fitzsimons to up-end him with as perfectly timed and technically executed a tackle as you’re likely to see.

Typically, Jude’s won more than their fair share on their own long kick-outs, but didn’t make as much hay they’d have liked. Initially it looked like Cuala were going to fall hook-line-and sinker for Jude’s classic kick-out ploy – bunch the centre and go long over the top to Séamus Ryan and Colm Murphy, or into the spaces out wide, and attack into space.

With Cuala clearly keen to get their own kick-outs off short, they were equally keen to try to prevent Jude’s from getting theirs off – they went man-on-man.

It was far from a naïve plan, however.

A) their forwards were systematically under the breaks like their lives depended on it. This meant that Jude’s had to earn every break they would get, and if they did, there was a slim chance they’d attack quickly at pace.

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Cuala were first up under the break

B) Meanwhile, Cuala systematically filtered a player, typically Eoghan Breannacht at wing back, back in front of the full back line while the break was being contested. It was as efficient a plan as you could muster, in terms of going man-on-man on the kick-out, yet still limiting the possibility of being caught with the quick attack after losing the kick-out.

Jude’s would only launch one quick attack from the long kick-out off the back of the quick kick-outs in the first half.

Hence, I say they slowly ground Cuala into submission. They never overran them. They just defended superbly, as ever, notwithstanding two needlessly conceded frees in the first half, and tipped along putting scores on the board.

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They were 0-7 to 0-3 up when O’Callaghan broke the line from centre forward, before an audacious attempt from distance flew over the bar.

By half time, trailing by 09- to 0-4, you had the sense that such moments of magic from O’Callaghan would be the only thing that might keep Cuala within touching distance.

Their cause wasn’t helped when Dublin panelist, Mark Schutte, went off with what looked, perhaps, like a thigh strain, half way through the first half.

And indeed it was the line-break from O’Callaghan, three minutes into the second half, which created the goal which would make the score-board look the most balanced it would for the rest of the evening.

With Ross O’Brien beginning to pull the strings from the half forward line, their two key danger men up front, McManamon and Donnelly, put up two points each, before O’Brien and Kieran Doherty extended their lead to eight points with barely ten minutes remaining.

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O’Brien pulled the strings in the second half

Cuala, perhaps, going for ambitious goals a touch early, missed a few opportunities to get back to within two goals until just before injury time when they would pull back two.

A missed injury time penalty from Donnelly from Jude’s would have been the icing on the cake, but it was put wide. In fact, a minute into injury time, six points up, the point would probably have been the prudent decision.

It was insignificant, in any case, as there would be no further scores. Jude’s roll on to their fifth semi-final in six years. Having lost five out of five in recent years, they’ll be ravenous to go one step further.

As draws could have gone, their tie with holders, Vincent’s, is as tactically intriguing as a neutral could have hoped for. The best zonal defence in Dublin versus the best “pick and poke” attack!

St Jude’s – Paul Copeland, Ciarán Fitzpatrick, Paul Cunningham, Rob Martina, Mark Sweeney, Chris Guckian, Niall O’Shea, Colm Murphy, Séamus Ryan, Kieran Doherty,, Ross’O’Brien, Ronan Joyce, Niall Coakley, Kevin McManamon, Declan Donnelly. Subs – Diarmuid McLoughlin, Paul Courtney, Oisín Mangan, Billy Sheehan.

Scorers – N Coakley 0-5 (0-4 frees), D Donnelly 0-5 (0-2 frees), K McManamon 0-3, R O’Brien 0-1, M Sweeney 0-1, K Doherty 0-1.

Cuala – Luke Kelly, Seán Drummond, Michael Fitzsimons, Luke Treacy, Eoghan Breannacht, Conor Mulally, John Fitzsimons, James Power, Mark Schutte, Matthew Kiernan, Colm Sheanon, John Sheanon, Niall O’Callaghan, Con O’Callaghan, Dara Spillane. Subs – Alan Benson, Niall James, Niall Carthy, Liam McHugh.

Scorers – C O’Callaghan 0-4 (0-3 frees), D Spillane 1-0, C Mulally 0-2, own-point P Copeland 0-1

By Stephen O’Meara