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“If you’re in full-forward every day, you become predictable”. Those were the words of Tipperary captain, Seamus Callanan, following today’s 1-29 to 1-16 win over Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn.
Liam Sheedy’s charges were far from predictable today, especially in the forward line with their movement causing as much damage as it did during their heyday in 2010. Corner-forward, John McGrath, operated as an extra defender in the half-back for large portions of the game, Jake Morris floated between wing-forward and corner-forward while the rest of the half-forward line often dropped back into midfield to help Michael Breen and Noel McGrath who got through a mountain of work.
They have one of the most potent forward units in the country but the problem is how to utilise every player to the best of their ability. As Callanan rightly pointed out, every forward is extremely versatile. The Drom & Inch man has been in a battle with Jason Forde ever since he returned from injury to decide who should wear the number 14 jersey. Forde’s best performances last year came in that position but he was dispatched to the half-forward line upon Callanan’s return.
Callanan again wore the 14 jersey but found himself operating at centre-forward for most of the match with Forde lethal in front of goal. In this week’s Deep-Dive, in association with Allianz, we take a closer look at the performance of the Silvermines club man and argue that he is best utilised at full-forward.
Forde had sole responsibility from placed balls and was almost flawless with 0-8, sending only one effort wide. He operated in the half-forward line for most of the first half, limiting the impact he could have had, though he gave glimpses during that period of the vital role he can play for Tipperary going forward, outside of being the free-taker.
Tipperary had so many ball winners in their forward unit on Sunday, from O’Meara to McGrath and Morris. This allowed Forde to play more of a poachers-style role, anticipating the play and finishing the scoring opportunity.
Like on many occasions on Sunday, this example shows how Forde expertly finishes a move that began in the full-back line. Even with the wind at their backs, Tipp were clever enough to move the ball smartly up the field with their forwards making runs into space.
Three players were involved before John O’Dwyer sent a beautiful diagonal ball to Niall O’Meara (green) who had drifted onto the wing. The minute the Kilruane man collected the ball, Forde (yellow) began his run towards the square.
O’Meara soon runs into trouble but instead of engaging, Forde remains at the edge of the square, unmarked, and prepared to take a pass.
The ball is eventually turned over and Nash passes it out to Christopher Joyce who is well manned by Jake Morris. The Na Piarsaigh man tries to handpass the ball out of danger but by this stage, Forde has come across, and he reads the ball and intercepts. He runs into space before shooting and pointing over his shoulder.
Another example came just before half-time. By that stage, the Premier County were nine points up and firmly in the driving seat. James Barry sent a long, high ball into the full-forward line. O’Dwyer (green) went up to collect, and Forde remained on the ground anticipating the break which subsequently came his way.
Even though it was three-on-three, he still reacted quickest, gathering the ball and was allowed plenty of time to run into space. A goal at this point would have certainly killed the game off as a contest, and having drifted off his marker with no one between himself and Anthony Nash, Forde could have taken that option, but he showed maturity and coolness, choosing instead to make it a 10-point gap at the break.
Forde was moved into the full-forward line permanently in the second-half, with Callanan dropping further out, and within four minutes, he had proven himself as the danger man.
From midfield, Noel McGrath launched a high ball on top of his full-forward line but with Damien Cahalane under it and two other Cork defenders with him, it didn’t look as though the opportunity would amount to much.
However, Cahalane fumbled the ball, dropping into the path of the onrushing Forde. There is no Cork defender near him, gifting Forde plenty of time to aim his shot just outside the reach of Nash.
The next example began with good work from Callanan in midfield who won the puckout, beat his defender and batted the ball to Michael Breen who had drifted forward. By the time he collected the ball, there were nine Cork jerseys in the picture, surrounding the three Tipperary players, Breen and Morris, with Forde floating further out at the edge of the square, just out of reach of his marker.
O’Dwyer was hovering just outside of frame and rushed in to collect the breaking ball. Forde’s marker, Cahalane (blue), rushes to engage with O’Dwyer while he holds his position.
‘Bubbles’ rose the ball, turned and quickly passed to Forde and while the defence made a half-hearted effort to close him down, he made a better angle for himself and scored his third point from play, increasing the gap to 14 points.
The forward’s were very unselfish in their play today, constantly finding a man in a better position instead of hitting pot-shots at goal, especially in the second half when they were against the strong wind.
The final example was a real team move that started because of the discipline and ferocity of Cathal Barrett and Padraic Maher to turn over the ball in their own full-back line. It was then worked up through Ronan Maher into ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer who had drifted out to midfield. He showed superb skill and a lovely first touch to win the ball ahead of his marker.
When McGrath (blue) collected the ball from O’Dwyer on the wing, Forde made his way out to the centre of the pitch to make himself available as an option.
It was eventually tapped along to O’Meara (green), who spotted the run of Forde into space. The Silvermines man pointed to his teammate as to where he wanted the ball.
Forde rounded Luke Meade, which allowed him the space to easily slot over his 13th point of the game, and his fourth from play.
Although he was awarded man-of-the-match, Forde’s day ended on a sour note, limping off the field after 58 minutes following a tussle for possession with Cahalane. His replacement, Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher, did well upon his arrival but Tipperary absolutely need Jason Forde in full fitness this summer.
Sheedy’s men find themselves in a quarter-final battle against Dublin next weekend, and should Forde be fit for that clash, it will be interesting to see where the 2010 All Ireland winning manager decides to play him. Given his performance today, you would have to feel that full-forward is the obvious choice with Callanan dispatched to centre-forward.