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  • GAA

Can Kiladangan’s desire overcome Loughmore’s momentum

Friday, 18th September, 2020 11:08am
Can Kiladangan’s desire overcome Loughmore’s momentum

Respective Captains Paul Flynn (Kiladangan) and Tomas McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) with County SHC Sponsor representive Michael Berkery (FBD Insurance) at the Launch in Semple Stadium. Photograph: Bridget Delaney

Can Kiladangan’s desire overcome Loughmore’s momentum

Respective Captains Paul Flynn (Kiladangan) and Tomas McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) with County SHC Sponsor representive Michael Berkery (FBD Insurance) at the Launch in Semple Stadium. Photograph: Bridget Delaney

GAA: FBD Insurance Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship Final Preview


By Shane Brophy

Semple Stadium, Thurles
Sunday 19th September
Throw-in @ 2.00pm (E.T.)
Referee: Michael Kennedy (Newcastle)

A pairing that is incredibly hard to call is all you want when it comes to a county final and that is what you have with Kiladangan and Loughmore/Castleiney in this senior hurling decider.

In a year that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons off the field, on it this Sunday we’ll either have Kiladangan becoming senior champions for the first time, or Loughmore/Castleiney winning the first half of what they will hope will be a senior hurling and football double.

There’s no doubting we have the best two teams in the final. Kiladangan are unbeaten so far while Loughmore are riding such a wave of momentum that they are incredibly hard to stop when they get on a run, as they showed in 2013 when they previously completed the double.

Kiladangan are marginal favourites in what is their third final in five years as the pressure increases for them to get their hands on the Dan Breen Cup for the first time. In 2016 they were relative novices against a Thurles Sarsfields side in their prime, however, they didn’t bring their best form against Borris-Ileigh last year and you sense an element of retribution in their quest to make up for that.

It’s a team that is still relatively very young, when you take Joe Gallagher and Fergal Hayes out of the starting fifteen, however, they don’t want this losing final run becoming a trend for a group that will be around for many years to come.

In attempting to break that duck, there is no worse team to be facing than Loughmore/Castleiney as not only do they have the quality, they never back down in any way.

It promises to an entertaining final with both sides comfortable on the ball. Kiladangan play a very quick brand of hurling with the ball constantly moving, either through the hurley or the hand. Loughmore’s football prowess leads to that as well but they play a little more direct, however, they will be cognisant of the fact that they can’t hit aimless ball into the forwards as Kiladangan’s backs will eat it up and won’t give it back as easily. 

Kiladangan will look to play a high tempo game as Loughmore are a physically bigger side and maybe take advantage of their schedule in which they have played on nine consecutive weekends, however, there is no sign of them slowing down, in fact they seem to be getting better with each game, hurling or football.

Loughmore’s group form wasn’t anything to write home about with a win over Moycarkey/Borris, then a heavy loss to Thurles Sarsfields, before writing the ship in the do or die group game with Kilruane MacDonaghs. That game had a county final feel to it such was what was at stake and that should stand to Loughmore.

Kiladangan haven’t had that experience to the same extent despite needing a result in their final group game against Drom & Inch, they were probably still going to qualify regardless. They’ll look to tap into the manner of the performance against Roscrea where they were looking to bounce back from the opening round draw with JK Brackens where there was a slickness and drive to what they did.

It is highly unlikely we’ll see either side employ a sweeper, particularly from a Loughmore point of view as handing Kiladangan an extra back to sweep up the ball would be a huge mistake.

There will be some interesting match-ups, particularly David Sweeney who will likely pick up John McGrath and if the Tipp star is restricted in any way, it will go along way to winning the game for Kiladangan. However, Loughmore have many players who can beat you in the big day as they have shown in their last three hurling games against Kilruane, Clonoulty/Rossmore and Nenagh where Evan Sweeney, Ciaran McGrath and captain Tomas McGrath have stepped up with big contributions in attack. On top of that, they have Liam Treacy available once more after recovering from a broken finger and in Conor McGrath they have a livewire option off the bench.

Defensively, apart from the second half against JK Brackens, Kiladangan have been very solid and haven’t conceded a goal in their last four games. Not only is it quality play with Darragh Flannery, James Quigley, Fergal Hayes, Declan McGrath, Alan Flynn and David Sweeney, it’s helped by in-match coaching with the placement of sub-keeper Darragh Egan as a hurler-carrier in the half-back line in their last four games and when the ball is up the other end of the field, there is constant communication on the set-up of the defence for when the ball comes back into their area with goalkeeper Barry Hogan a virtual spectator in the last four games.

However, Hogan’s deliveries from puckouts are top notch with and can land a ball in the opposition 21 with Kiladangan adept at clearing out one of their wing forward berths for a corner forward to run onto a puckout. The shape of the Kiladangan attack looks much better this year with Billy Seymour aiding Joe Gallagher in the ball-winning role, and if Seymour has his radar turned on he could be the match-winner. Sean Hayes was a very good finisher as a minor but in his role with the seniors it is much more a work-horse and has is improving that element of his game as the championship has worn on.

Gallagher is the key and is likely who John Meagher will be posted on and it would be no surprise if Brian McGrath goes onto Billy Seymour to try and restrict his ball-winning and scoring ability.

Loughmore’s inside back line of Lorcan Egan, Joseph Hennessy and Willie Eviston is under-rated but they face a severe test from Kiladangan were Dan O’Meara, Paul Flynn and Bryan McLoughney are all potential match-winners. The manner of his goal against Drom & Inch in the semi-final should infuse McLoughney with great confidence while O’Meara and Flynn have an eye for goal.

If they do get those opportunities, Loughmore’s weak link could be their goalkeeper David Kennedy. The 45-year-old owes his club nothing and the fact he has stepped into fill a problem position says it all about his desire to help out his club and still play at the highest level but he isn’t a true goalkeeper and in a game of such fine margins where he is likely to be tested by the Kiladangan forwards, it could be the difference.

Midfield is likely to be the key zone as Loughmore like to crowd that area with Noel McGrath, Ciaran Connolly, while their half forward line also play very deep to leave space for their inside forwards. That would leave little space for Tadgh Gallagher and Willie Connors to influence the game but if there is one player that has eyes in the back of his head to play a pass others can’t see, it is Connors.

Even as I write this, it’s almost impossible to predict who will win the game with any confidence as while Kiladangan have huge scoring ability and are probably the more fluid side, they can be knocked from their stride as they were by JK Brackens and Loughmore/Castleiney can play a similar brand of hurling to their Mid Tipp neighbours.

However, that was in round 1 when Kiladangan weren’t fully in their stride and they will be fully aware of a couple of ways Loughmore could try and beat them.

While both are the epitome of “playing as a team”, Loughmore do trump Kiladangan in terms of having been there and done it, while they have the two star players on the field in Noel & John McGrath, and certainly Noel is due a big game.

I’m tempted to flip a coin at this stage to come up with a winner, the only hope I have is that it is not decided on penalties and that if it goes to extra time that referee Michael Kennedy plays on until there is a winner on the field of play. 
So it comes down to Kiladangan’s desire versus Loughmore’s momentum. Verdict: Loughmore/Castleiney

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