Vincent’s Take BallyMun in Tactical Master-class

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St Vincent’s 1-8 – 0-8 Ballymun Kickham’s

When Giovanni Trapattoni departed the Irish football scene, Marco Tardelli more or less summed up what I’d felt about the Irish attitudes to what the nation of the best tacticians in the world considered to have been one of their greatest.

His words were something along the lines of “the Irish think football is about running around a field. They don’t understand that it’s an intellectual matter”.

Make no mistake about it. The result of Vincents’ victory over Ballymun in the Dublin Senior Football Final, was very much ab intellectual matter- yet another master-class by a team of intellectual footballers with football know-how oozing out of every pore.

Ballymun appeared to be like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights for the opening 25 minutes. Both sides more or less went with five forwards – three half forwards, two in the full forward line and three midfielders.

Vincents’ Cameron Diamond wore 12 but played more like a midfielder, while Ballymun’s Davey Byrne wore 15 but played in the middle too.

The first half was the epitome of Vincents’ calm, poise, experience and footballing intellect. They played like an Italian soccer side on a hot day, slowing the game right down, not to make it a game that would be decided by who had the better athletes.

They played all the right angles, widening the field for themselves for occasional cutting runs from as far back as Craig Wilson in the full back line to penetrate, high up the field.

By the twentieth minute, Mun appeared  to have lost all tactical shape as Vincent’s frustrated the life out of them. On three occasions from the twentieth minute to half time, despite Vincent’s having held the ball for prolonged periods, Mun had ceased to re-shape to have a man in front of the full forward line, two-on-two each occasion, with Diarmuid Connolly in there once.

In fact, Vincent’s re-shaped so frequently that Connolly was marked at different times by four different players in the first half, Philly McMahon, Eoin Dolan, John Small and James Burke.

Indeed, Mun’s temperament was coming to look shaky when John Small should surely have been black carded for the very tackle the rule was introduced for, taking a player out after he’d played the ball. Incredulously, he saw yellow. Equally incredulously, the referee and linesman turned a blind eye when Alan Hubbard kicked Enda Varlety in retaliation to a “minor” infringement after a free.

You could understand the frustration to some extent. Not alone were Vincent’s giving a master-class in game management on the ball, but they were consistently stopping the play when the ball was turned over by Ballymun’s defence, by all manner of subtle and less subtle means. Wily foxes as I’d said in my preview, applying clever tactics, slowing Mun down by all means.

It could have been far more than 1-4 to 0-2 after 25 minutes. Quinn had missed two very scoreable frees/45’s and had also hit the post when his twinkle toes danced around McMahon, and he shot low.

Connolly’s goal was as noteworthy in how ruthlessly he pounced, as it was in that it was illustrative of Mun’s opening 25 minutes- McMahon, one of their marquee players, giving away easy possession.

Again, their capacity to score, even off slow kick-outs to the full back line was key. They’re still the only side in Dublin who consistently do it, and they managed one from two in the first half which cranked up the tactical pressure on Mun.

By the 25th minute, however, Mun had regained their composure, began to come off the shoulder well, and started to look like themselves. With wing back Carl Keely to the fore they got two good points before half-time and, somehow, after an awful first half, they only trailed by a goal, 1-4 to 0-4.

Not coincidentally Mun’s resurgence coincided with winning two long kick-outs in a row. Dáithí Murphy, standing over six and a half feet tall was introduced for Vincent’s at half time!

Mun appeared to have regained full composure by the start of the second half as looked like they might begin to eat into the lead, but equally, Vincent’s kept tagging on scores.

The key moment of the game came when Savage saved brilliantly off Keeley, on a one-on-one, that would have put just a point between the sides, but being tipped over, left it at 1-8 to 0-8.

With Mick Concarr tight on Paddy Small and Ger Brennan keeping tabs on Dean Rock in the half forward line, before he went to 14 for the final ten, Mun never looked like fully exposing Vincents’ defence. They just re-shaped too efficiently, with Wilson typically falling back in front of the two man man-marking full back line.

Everything that is Vincent’s was illustrated in the next four and eight minutes, after Savage’s save.

With fifty minutes on the clock, they got the short kick-out off to the ever-alert Jarlath Curley, played intelligent possession for well over two minutes, sending out the message “come get us if you want the ball”. When Mun eventually pressed, they picked and poked their way to possession on the 14 at the other end of the field for a free, just shy of three minutes after the kick-out. An intellectual matter!

Quinn really did take the proverbial in killing over a minute before running to kick the free, by which stage he’d crossed the line and the ref threw the ball up. Though this one went too far, it did illustrate just how Vins had stolen every inch they could to get a tactical upper hand.

When Mun came out with the ball from the throw in, they fouled, and a man went down, apparently injured. The clock read 58 by the time Mun hit their free.

From the time Keeley had had his goal shot tipped over the bar, eight minutes had passed and Ballymun had had possession for about ten seconds. An intellectual matter.

With only four minutes of injury time to play, probably too small for all the stoppages, Vins never looked like they’d be broken down.

Calm, experienced, composed, intellectual.

Shock, horror, surprise. Vincent’s are champions again!

*full analysis to come*

By Stephen O’Meara