St Sylvester’s Vs Lucan Sarsfield’s : Syl’s out-last Lucan
The Joe Brolly’s of the world would probably be outraged to see a top quality forward like Gary Sweeney roaming between the 45’s, yet his application of this role was the decisive factor in Sylvesters’ Friday night extra time victory.
Sylvester’s, despite expectation, hadn’t reached the quarter finals since 2013, whereas Lucan are regular visitors, running Vincent’s close last year. And if you’d arrived after half time, not knowing that Lucan were already six points down, based on how they were performing, that record would maybe have stacked up.
On a wet and miserable night, the opening ten minutes, however, read like a horror story for Lucan as they shipped a goal inside thirty seconds and the next four points to boot.
It wasn’t so much that Sweeney’s brilliantly incisive runs in the middle third were cutting Lucan to shreds, that the tactic which saw him roam exposed Lucan horrifically until they shored it up.
Both Sweeney, wearing number 14 and Edmund Walsh wearing 13, played as roamers around the middle, leaving Syl’s with just four up top, essentially playing a 6-4-4 system, or a 6-4-2-2 to be more precise, with two in each line of the forwards.
With Lucan appearing to be intent on going man-on-man, with the respective markers following Sweeney and Walsh to the middle third, Lucan were essentially playing a 4-4-6. In terms of the tactical evolution of the pyramid in soccer, Syl’s pyramid, as it should be, was wide at the bottom. Lucan’s T-shape was wide at the top.
This created optimum circumstances for Syl’s to attack into space early on, and testing circumstances for Lucan to attack into heavy traffic.
Saying that, Syl’s goal was as old school as old school as can be as Sweeney, coming from the corner forward position, won the first ball played in from the throw in, beat his man, and looped a hand pass over the keeper’s head for Glen Hazley to fist into the empty net.
For Lucan, the horror show was set to begin.
If the Brolly’s of this world might not be inspired by the likes of Sweeney roaming out of scoring range, you can assume they’d have been inspired by the manner in which the majority of Syl’s first half scores came.
With Gavin McCardle at number 6 and Brian Sexton at number 5 controlling affairs for Syls in their congested half back line, Syl’s worked ball after ball to the half forward line from which the oldest and most effective set up in the book worked a treat.
Thirty, forty and fifty yard passes kept being sent perfectly on top of Jack Hazley’s head at full forward, he kept winning them, and kept scoring, handing them off for scores or being fouled for frees. He would take five or six cleanly in the air in the first half.
When Syl’s weren’t scoring in this manner, they looked like a rugby team, constantly carrying the ball to the half forward line, stretching the sparsely populated Lucan defence, before handing it off to John Coughlan, sitting like a rugby fly half, set up to kick drop-goals from behind the play, be fouled, or stretch the Lucan defence, desperate to block him.
From these two sources, Jack Hazley catching and Coughlan loitering, Syls racked up six of their 1-8 in the first half.
As you looked around the Lucan defence to contemplate the seemingly logical switch, to put a big man on Hazley at full back, you realised that you were looking at a particularly short defence. At least four seemed barely 5’9 and none appeared to be even six feet tall. Against what I’d guess at a 6’5 Hazley, towering more than a full head above his man, it appeared to be a tactical problem.
However, as the game developed, it became apparent that the height difference was a secondary, not primary, issue.
By the time Paul Casey, wearing number 15, could be seen sitting as a spare man in front of his defence, completely altering the tactical dynamics, the game began to change significantly. Throughout the second half and extra time, only one Syl’s score would come from this direct route” to Hazley. The game was set to swing.
Even before Lucan had restructured their defence, the flip side of a forward, with a forward’s mentality, roaming the middle third, was exposed. Number 4, Ciarán Smith, with Sweeney oblivious to his position, ghosted into space and set up Stephen O’Shaughnessy for a one-on-one chance. However, Michael Shiels advanced superbly on and touched the shot onto the post to deny Lucan the chance to instantly wake from their bad dream, trailing 1-4 to 0-1 at the time.
With Lucan restructured, three of their points would illustrate both a textbook statistical pattern that just keeps on giving, as well as the key duel at the opposite end.
With their tactics restructured, certainly two, and I think three Lucan points in a row came from the same source which our Zonal Kick-out Analysis, shows time and time to be a loser. Kick-outs to the full back line hit more that 9.5 seconds after the ball goes dead/which don’t breach the Killer Quarter quickly.
At least two of Lucan’s second, third and fourth points fitted this pattern, as the slow Syl’s kick allowed Lucan to get men behind the ball and counter efficiently. To be fair, a fourth, with Sexton key, ended up with a Syl’s point at the far end.
These Lucan scores would illustrate the key battle at this end of the field as Tommy Brennan, 39 this year but looking barely half his age in all regards, went head to head with Sylvester’s full back. In an epic man-marking battle in the first half, Brennan won four from the eight balls put in front of him.
However, from the four he won, he manoeuvred a point attempt for himself or other, or a free on each occasion, with three resulting in points.
As Lucan got a foothold on the game, they went from trailing by 1-5 to a point, shortly after the quarter mark, to 1-8 to 0-5 at half time.
Just as Sweeney’s influence was key in the first half, the introduction of Declan O’Shaughnessy for Lucan at half time, was equally key. Taking the place of a forward but roaming the middle third, his runs, and with the new space created in the forward line, saw Lucan create two goal scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of the second half. However, they had to settle for two points, narrowing the gap to four.
With Emmet O’Congaile at midfield, Caolmhan O’Congaile at wing back, Darren Given at wing forward and the aforementioned Declan O’shaughnessy coming to the fore with ball carrying, and Stephen O’Shaughnessy controlling affairsfrom centre forward, Lucan began to look the more threatening.
However, the four point margin would remain until the final minutes, when Declan O’Shaughnessy cut inside his man in the box and bought a penalty, he may technically have deserved, going to ground when a Syl’s defender made unnecessary and risky contact on his stomach, in a crowded box.
Brendan Gallagher dispatched it, before an even more needless free concession gave Lucan what had earlier seemed an unlikely chance to equalise. Given must have thought it was Christmas as he bent down on a ball in a crowded area, forty yards from goal, only for a Syl’s man to try to boot the ball away and gift the free.
On a dirty night, forty yards out, the free would be a nightmare for somebody with nerves made of anything less than steel. However, Brennan nailed it with a technically perfectly curling strike that was going over as soon as it left his left boot.
Extra time would ensue.
After an initial goal chance for Lucan in extra-time, and an early point each being traded, things would come to look ominous for the Liffey-siders. As Lucan were forced to bring back on the likes of 35 (or so) year old Stephen O’Shaughnessy, Syl’s had number twenty somethings popping up left right and centre, making for a team that looked only partially recognisable from the one which originally took the field.
It was perfectly clear before half time in extra time, that Lucan simply weren’t going to have the legs to keep with a Sylvester’s side that now looked like how you’d expect to see Jim Gavin’s Dublin run riot in the last fifteen minutes of a Leinster Championship match.
A Brennan goal chance, trailing by a point, just before half time of extra time, would transpire to have represent their last chance.
The only thing which might have saved Lucan would have been kick-out dominance. However, despite conceding an inch or two on his opposite number, a key feature of the evening would put the nail in Lucan’s coffin. Ross Hazley would continue his massive aerial display and the Malahide men would completely dominate kick-outs for the last ten minutes.
This would serve as the platform for three more unanswered points as Syl’s ran out 1-16 to 1-12 winners, putting them back in the quarter finals for the first time in four seasons.
St Sylvester’s Michael Shiels, Colm McIntyre, Conor Quinn, John Peakock, Andrew Cunningham, Gavin McArdle, Brian Sexton, Ross Hazley, Dylan Connolly, Glen Hazley, John Coughlan, Ronan Palmer, Edmund Walsh, Jack Hazley, Gary Sweeney. Subs Shane Doyle, Conor Ryan, Conor Meaney, Alan Foy, Fionn Carney
Lucan Sarsfield’s Philip Greene, Owen Ennis, Daniel Gallagher, Ciarán Smith, Dermot Gallagher, Seán Cleary, Caolmhan O’Congaile, Keith Moran, Emmet O’Congaile, Daren Given, Stephen O’Shaughnessy, Seán Newcombe, Tommy Brennan, Brendan Gallagher, Paul Casey. Subs Declan O’Shaughnessy, Jack Carey, John McCormack.
Scorers: Sylvester’s Edmund Walsh 0-4 (1 free, 1 “45”), Dylan Connolly 0-3 (3 frees), Glen Hazley 1-0, Jack Hazley 0-2, Shane Doyle 0-1, Andrew Cunningham 0-1, Ros Hazley 0-1, John Coughlan 0-1, Ronan Palmer 0-1, Conor Meaney 0-1, Alan Foy 0-1 Lucan Tommy Brennan 0-6 (3 frees), Brendan Gallagher 1-3 (1 peno, 1 free), Philip Greene 0-1 (1 “45”), Emmet O’Congaile 0-1, Darrn Given 0-1
By Stephen O’Meara, with photos by Liz Forde