St. Vincent’s vs Judes – The Head to Heads

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We’ve already looked at the key tactical elements to Saturday evening’s mouth-watering tie between St. Vincent’s and St Jude’s, so now let’s take a look at the key individuals and the duels we can expect to see.

As I’ve said before, there’s a bit of Claudio Ranieri/Leicester City syndrome about Jude’s –  a brilliant defence, key midfielders who serve a very specific function, a phenomenal unit, and one of the best forwards in the land.

Take a key player or two out of the side (like N’Golo Kanté), and the loss could be felt significantly more than the sum of that player’s individual raw ability.

There’s simply no getting past the fact that Kevin McManamon is Judes’ key player, possibly more so than Diarmuid Connolly is Vincents’.

Take Connolly out of the Vincent’s attack and you’re still pulling in the likes of Gavin Burke who scored six points from play in the 2013 final and scored/made the key line-break for five points in last year’s final. McManamon is massively proportionately relied on for Judes’ scores.

McManamon terrorised Cuala

Judes’ Forwards against Vincents’ defence

Typically, Jude’s will go with the big ball winning D.A. Donnelly up front with Niall Coakley, with McManamon typically drifting towards the half forward line.

Ross O’Brien will pull the strings from centre forward “picking and poking”, while the wing forwards are typically more like third and fourth midfielders – the likes of Kieran Doherty and Ronan Joyce, or possibly Mark Sweeney if he’s not wing back (Tom Lahiff as standard if he were available).

Coakley will alternate between pivoting towards the short pass and winning direct ball to the full forard line, and Donnelly is the perfect target-man, but the men to weave through zonal defences are O’Brien and McManamon.

Donnelly is the target-man up front

Last year McManamon scored or made the key line-break for five of their fourteen points against Croke’s, and even on a bad day, he scored 1-1 against Castleknock. He scored or made the key line break for at least six of their sixteen points against Cuala in the last round.

Quite simply, if Vincent’s can hold him, you have to assume the bottom could fall out of Judes’ attack.

To that end, the line ups will be interesting. I still harp back to the fact that, apart from Ballyboden in 2015, the only time I’ve really seen Vincent’s struggle in their three championship wins in the last four years, was for a ten to fifteen minute period in 2014, when Sylvesters’ midfield briefly dominated the kick-out, and Gary Sweeney, a centre forward cut from the same cloth as McManamon, got on lots of ball and ran at them. It just so happened that Diarmuid Connolly scored/created three wonder-goals that night and it became insignificant.

Ger Brennan is an extra-ordinary game controlling centre back, but he rarely has to cope with pacey centre forwards who hold their position as centre forwards. And you have to assume that at this hour of his career, he could struggle if he was asked to. McManamon could be his worst nightmare.

Even if Brennan could cope in a textbook man-on-man situation against McManamon, it would put him to the pin of his collar, and you’d have to assume that it would radically reduce his capacity to control the game from centre back or make key bursts forward when the need arises. Both of these elements are far more key to Vincent’s than most people probably appreciate.

Brennan will oversee affairs from the back

The problem, of course, is that McManamon typically lines up in the full forward line and drifts. This will suit Vincent’s down to the ground, as it will allow them to send either man-marker, Craig Wilson or Mick Concarr after him.

Discommode Ross O’Brien, and potentially push him in front of, or behind a standing centre forward, and you could create a headache. In fact, play with a 6-4-1-1-2 (six defenders, four midfielders/wing forwards, a player between this and the centre forward, a centre forward and two full forwards), and you could leave O’Brien to pivot towards the ball and spray it from there, allowing McManamon to remain deeper. You’d either pull Brennan out of the text book centre back position he commands so well, to follow O’Brien, or leave him on McManamon. It’s not beyond reason that Jude’s will try to manufacture this some way. It’s more or less how they line-up in general, just with a significant tweak.

As Judes’ “wing-forwards” drop deep, expect Vincents’ wing backs, most likely Cameron Diamond and Sligo centre back, Brendan Egan, to hold their positions, but get up and down the line where the need arises.

Egan likes to get forward when the chance arises

Jarlath Curley’s physical presence will make for an epic battle with the larger Donnelly, and you can then expect Coakley to be picked up by one of Concarr or Wilson.

Vincent’s Attack vs Jude’s Defence

With so much quality up front, there may not be a huge deal of point in Jude’s sending specific  defenders after specific forwards, beyond the obvious. Who do you worry about more? Enda Varley or Mossy Quinn?

With Varley typically taking up the central role, presumably Paul Cunningham, who didn’t give Con O’Callaghan much change for the quarter of an hour or so he faced him, will pick him up.

Cunningham kept tabs on “King Con”

You’d imagine then that Mossy Quinn would be seen as a bigger direct threat than Rúairí Trianor, who tends to drift sometimes, and that Rob Martina will pick him up. Post Guckian’s injury last year, he picked up Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny. That will probably leave the other corner back, Ciarán Fitzpatrick, assuming he’s the starter, to pick up Trianor.

You have to assume that Guckian will remain at centre back, as he did up until his injury last year against Croke’s and Mannion, and pick up Diarmuid Connolly. He certainly has the physical presence for the job. The rest is anybody’s guess.

Slaughtneil’s Chrissy McCague showed that Connolly isn’t invincible, but we all know what a big ask it is to keep tabs on him.

Connolly, of course, is key

He scored five of the most outrageous points from play against Ballymun in last year’s semi-final, and has a habit of sneaking into the full forward where he’ll get a goal, before pottering back out to centre forward. Suffice to say, if he’s not held, Jude’s haven’t a hope.

Assuming Shane Carthy to play on the wing again, after a great season at midfield last year, presumably, if he’s in the defence, the highly athletic Antrim footballer, Mark Sweeney, will be the ideal candidate for him.

Jude’s will need to keep close watch on Carthy

Then it’s possibly Niall O’Shea on the other wing to account for Cormac Diamond, assuming Vincent’s keep with the same line-up as the last day.

God bless whichever defender has to cope with Gavin Burke’s running at wing forward, assuming he comes on, after chasing Carthy or Diamond around for thirty or forty minutes already.


This really is the intriguing battle. Jude’s always go with the two big men, Colm Murphy and Séamus Ryan. They’re both fine footballers, but their primary function is fielding kick-outs. Questions arise, however, regarding their capacity to keep with athletic midfielders, like Castleknock’s Shane Boland who ran riot in the last quarter of last year’s semi. Jude’s typically cover this angle by playing athletic “wing forwards” who are really two extra midfielders. Kieran Dohery, at number 10 only in name, is equally physically imposing as Murphy and Ryan.

Jude’s have big men all around the centre

The big question is whether Vincent’s re-shuffle based on this dynamic. They have midfield options coming out their ears.

They could start Armagh senior, Joe Feeney, or ever-present 2013 and 2014 Dublin double and 2013 All-Ireland winner, Burke at wing forward. This would allow them to create a headache for Murphy and Ryan by shifting Carthy back to midfield where he played last year.

If Éamonn Fennell or Dáíthí Murphy were deemed suitably fit, they could still put a big man in to compete the kick-outs. That, presumably, would mean shifting Nathan Mullins back to wing back.

Fennell’s physical presence could be key

Personally, I wouldn’t be convinced by the merits of starting the same midfield as the last game, Lorcan Galvin and Nathan Mullins, against this specific Jude’s midfield.

While Galvin made a solid championship starting debut, and Mullins is perfectly suited to midfield in general, it would create no headache for Jude’s. Each of Judes’ pairing would be physically larger than their opposite numbers, but Vincent’s wouldn’t have the energy of a Carthy to give them nightmares regarding being overrun.

Having only seen Galvin once, I won’t say for certain, but I don’t think he has the kind of engine Carthy does. For me, if one or both are suitably fit, a pairing of Fennell or Murphy with Carthy would cause the maximum problems for Jude’s. Fennell would be the perfect physical antidote to the Jude’s trio of Ryan, Murphy and Doherty.

Keep the same midfield as against Sylvester’s and they run the risk of being dominated on Judes’ long kick-out. Looking at the tactical dynamics, this is probably the one battle that Jude’s will really have to dominate if they are to win.

Read our tactical preview here

By Stephen O’Meara