All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Preview

Kilkenny and Tipperary seventy minutes away from All Ireland glory

It all comes down to this. The traditional All Ireland Hurling final is in place with perennial rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary one fixture away from lifting Liam McCarthy. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at the final showpiece and what to expect.

Team News:

It is as you were for Tipperary as Liam Sheedy names an unchanged lineup from the side which came back to beat Wexford in the All Ireland semi-final. Kilkenny make one personnel change from the side which held on to topple reigning All Ireland Champions Limerick. Richie Leahy makes way for fit again Cillian Buckley.

Puckout Strategy Key:

The early puck out exchanges are going to be fascinating viewing. Kilkenny looking to crowd out the middle third and forcing Brian Hogan to be deadly accurate with his distribution. Hogan will need to look to keep the tempo high, look for easy out balls from the corner back and half-back lines to launch attacks.

Eoin Murphy has excelled Kilkenny this season; his opening half puck out strategy was the best I have seen all year against Limerick. His decision making to hit short or go long had Limerick scrambling for answers, a key foundation for Kilkenny’s victory.

Full Forward Threats Aplenty:

This final could be a game for the full forward positions on either side. TJ Reid has been a standout and will be exemplary but the role of the two full forwards in opposition is a keynote pregame commentary.

Colin Fennelly in recent months has provided the additional scoring and attacking leadership that Kilkenny have craved; to supplement and reduce the burden off TJ Reid who for me is HOTY candidate heading into this final.

Fennelly in the All Ireland Series has been a player with a point to prove; an extraordinary comment given vast his medal haul for club and county. The Ballyhale Shamrocks full forward has provided attacking threat aplenty and chipped in with some key goals.

His ability to take his full back marker on and create goals has been a hallmark of this Kilkenny campaign down the stretch and it is going to be interesting how Seamus Kennedy combats the threat. Does Ronan Maher drop in the pocket to nullify the threat but then leave space for Reid to score at will and deliver a man of the match performance?

Seamus Callanan at full forward as well has been exemplary. His goal scoring prowess seen throughout the year; give the Drom-Inch clubman a half a chance and he will bury it into the net.

Huw Lawlor has grown into the full back role but he faces the ultimate test. His corner back colleague Joey Holden knows firsthand what happens if Tipperary manage to supply Callanan with increasing frequency on All Ireland finals. You are chasing shadows.

Whoever wins the battle of the full forwards could be decisive in the final outcome when it all said and done.

Tipperary Midfield / Half Forward Units:

If there is a vulnerability in this Tipperary outfit, it is in the midfield and half forward line. Will they win enough primary and secondary ball to provide for their dangerous inside full forward line?

Michael Breen is a player who I rate extremely highly but he has failed to fully fire on all cylinders this season. The stage is set for the Ballina clubman to demonstrate his powerful running game and set the platform for Tipperary. If he does not, then Kilkenny have negated a key player for Tipperary.

The half forward line without Bonner Maher is a work in progress. There have been flashes of brilliance in open play but given Kilkenny’s setup and their ability to crowd out opposition, will the likes of O’Dwyer, McCormack or O’Meara get sufficient primary possession to be a factor in the contest? It is a major concern.

Kilkenny combating the run game?

The Limerick All Ireland semi-final was a strange contest; an emphatic first quarter and that was the foundation for victory but Limerick when they established the run game posed serious issues for Kilkenny defensively.

Limerick carved out goal chances in that second half; a superb Shane Dowling strike and then the late David Reidy effort where Kilkenny’s defensively were stretched to breaking point.

For Tipperary to win this contest, the run game has to be a key factor. The direct ball route to the full forward line is their strength but they will need the Maher’s in the half back line to drive forward from deep.

Michael Breen has to be ferocious in the run game; provide key deep runs at different intervals to ask the question of Browne and Buckley to allow Noel McGrath to sit in the pocket and orchestrate in the midfield and pick out colleagues with accurate distribution.

Kilkenny will pack the middle third; expect Donnelly, Mullen and Walsh to counter attack and attempt to pack out the Tipperary middle third allowing the likes of Deegan and Fogarty to sweep the threat of the direct ball to the inside full forward line? Intriguing stuff.

Tipperary combating the run game?

The two finalists have shown vulnerabilities in combating the run game. I am not convinced on the full back and center back positions in the side. Seamus Kennedy ably deputized at full back.

Ronan Maher was superb when switched to half back in the second half. This has to happen again to allow Padraic Maher to game read and provide a match winning contribution.

Tipperary though were exposed by the explosive Wexford run game in the first three quarters of their semi-final game. McGovern was giving acres of space and expect Kilkenny’s half forward line to test the defensive shape of Tipperary by making lung bursting runs from deep.

Given the vulnerabilities of both sides in the run game, this game could suddenly open up in the third quarter and goal chances could be created given the defensive struggles.

Verdict:

This is a tough final to call. Both sides have key strengths but also have vulnerabilities. The final lineup’s look strong and this could well be decided by the bench. Kilkenny were impressive against Limerick but were made hang on at the end. Tipperary battled well with fourteen players to advance to the final.

This final ultimately comes down to who will be defensively sound on the day. The Kilkenny stifling work rate without the ball against Limerick is something that Tipperary could struggle to combat. Tipp squad bench impact looks good with Kehoe and Morris in sparkling form.

I would not be surprised if this was a draw and a replay but if you had to ask me to pick a winner. I think Kilkenny have the aces in the attack. Reid, Fennelly and a player called Richie Hogan hold the key. The others will follow suit. Kilkenny to win by two / three points in my opinion as Tipperary’s lack of half forward primary ball winners minus Bonner will rear its head.

Premier League: Teams Hopes and Fears

Premier League is back!

First blog posting in how many weeks. Someone pinged me during the week asking what was the story? The story is that this site is not a full time thing, it is a part time / hobby interest and for the last couple of months, I have been undertaking certification in PSM I and Financial Investment (CFA Investment Foundations). All passed with flying colors but the same cannot be said for the runners and riders who take to the start line for the commencement of the English Premier League. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the hopes, the fears and expectations of each side.

Arsenal:

The hope: secure top four football next season.

The fear: defensive and goalkeeping vulnerabilities exposed against the top teams; lack of leadership due to player departures in the off season. Can Pepe deliver immediately?

The expectation: Solid start to the season. An exciting strike force which should produce goals, the question marks are defensively and whether David Luiz in particular can provide the leadership and nous to settle the side in the key games against the top teams.

Aston Villa:

The hope: survival in the top flight. Home form is paramount. Tom Heaton signing was an astute buy, defensively upgraded after that deal.

The fear: Will the side be the Fulham of last season? Massive investment on numerous players who are unproven in the league. Will Dean Smith get the time to gel the side together before being given the dreaded vote of confidence by the board.

The expectation: Big club. Jack Grealish will provide the inspiration for Villa and I see them just about staying up despite squad depth issues midseason. John McGinn and Conor Hourihane could be prospective targets for the better teams come January; expect them to make an immediate impact.

AFC Bournemouth:

The hope: keeping Callum Wilson fit and healthy. Ryan Fraser to continue his good form of last season. Home form solid and away counter attack potent to nick points on the road.

The fear: defensively were stretched to breaking point last season; have the reinforcements at the club sufficient quality? Nathan Ake is a major cog in this side. Any injury or suspension for Ake and the side are in trouble.

The expectation: established side in the top flight; a good early start is essential, fancy Bournemouth for a top ten position this season.

Brighton & Hove Albion:

The hope: new manager, new ideas, new ethos, new philosophy. Potter will aim to excite the fans with an expansive style of play. Early wins should solidify his situation; otherwise could be in trouble and an early candidate for the push.

The fear: A poor start to the season. After their ruthless sacking of Chris Hughton, Potter could follow and the club could spiral out of control with a new manager with more new ideas to throw to the mix.

The expectation: The Maupay deal is make or break for the club. Glenn Murray dependency last season for goals was huge. Maupay has the talent and whether he can bring that form from Brentford to the top flight is another story. Relegation dogfight, will just about survive with a new manager in charge come the end of the season.

Burnley:

The hope: after a trying last season where injuries, lack of form and unusually generous defensive gaffes plunged the team into a relegation dogfight, it is hoped that this season will see a much improved side.

The fear: Squad depth is tight, hard working unit but the question remains on the goals front. Who will score?

The expectation: Sean Dyche will be focused on a good start to the season; no European football to contend with which hindered the side early doors. Mid to lower mid table is achievable. Turf Moor fortress will secure the forty points required.

Chelsea:

The hope: Frank Lampard era. The Chelsea playing legend returns to the Bridge, looking to galvanize the side.

The fear: The transfer embargo. Departure of Hazard who is huge, key player for the club last term. The owner and his thoughts on the club will be interesting as the season progresses.

The expectation: Early season form due to the new managerial arrive will make way for some trying results. The defensive side of the team looks vulnerable. Cahill and Luiz left the club; two solid professionals. Sixth place position for Chelsea.

Crystal Palace:

The hope: Wilfred Zaha’s head space is on point from this weekend. The player wanted out of the club but failed to secure a move away from Selhurst Park. He carries the attacking threat. Palace better hope that Zaha lights it up and secures as many points to forty before January before he goes to another club then.

The fear. Wilfred Zaha attitude. The squad need the player to deliver, a job for Roy Hodgson to energize and cajole the player.

The expectation: Palace and goals are always a problem. Apart from Michy last season, who else stood up along with Zaha upfront? Sufficient squad depth to just about survive but it won’t be pretty.

Everton:

The hope: more investment, more players, more potential and squad competition. Can Silva galvanize the new signings and make a concerted bid for top six this term?

The fear: the new acquisitions need time to settle. Are Everton defensively solid to keep clean sheets early in the season? The jury is out.

The expectation: Top eight position again beckons for Everton. Silva may be put under pressure early if the results are not good.

Leicester City:

The hope: Brendon Rodgers era. Attacking football philosophy, playing to Vardy’s strengths with early quick ball behind defenses.

The fear: Harry Maguire departure. There should be sufficient coverage with the likes of Evans in the squad but Maguire was a huge player for the club in previous seasons.

The expectation: Top ten finish for me. Leicester City have pace to burn on the flanks. If Vardy hits form early, there should be no relegation worries.

Liverpool:

The hope: can they go one better than last season? So agonizingly close. The players could not give anymore; the hesistation in January 2019 was decisive.

The fear: squad depth, interesting fixture calendar for Liverpool with the World Club championship in December. Can the squad sufficiently balance another competition to an already hectic calendar?

The expectation: unless City are taken off their perch, Liverpool are destined to be second again. They are the side who could topple City but need to take four points off City to secure the title.

Manchester City:

The hope: an incredible domestic season. Can they deliver this dominance in the Champions League? Keeping key players fit in the season. Sane out for seven months is an ominous start to the campaign.

The fear: Keeping key players fit in the season. Sane out for seven months is an ominous start to the campaign.

The expectation: they are the side to be beaten this season again. Pep and the squad are the best. The clear favorite again but a slip in form like in December could still happen.

Manchester United:

The hope: Harry Maguire signing is the catalyst to provide more stability at the back, improve the passing game from the back to boot.

The fear: lack of signings in central midfield and attacking positions. Herrera and Lukaku gone so the onus falls on the young squad players like McTominay and Greenwood to deliver.

The expectation: squad depth deadwood to be exposed at various points of the season. A sneaky top four if United beat Chelsea this weekend; otherwise Ole is under pressure along with Ed Woodward.

Newcastle United:

The hope: Mike Ashley leaves the club.

The fear: Mike Ashley stays at the club.

The expectation: Relegation dogfight. Wily Steve Bruce needs results past given his managerial resume which included a stint at Sunderland. The squad looks exposed if injuries play a part. Who scores the goals upfront with the likes of Perez gone to Leicester? Relegation beckons.

Norwich City:

The hope: Carrow Road fortress.

The fear: Squad effort not in doubt, squad quality is.

The expectation: Farke strikes me as a measured manager but he will have his work cut out for survival. Decent quality but don’t look like keeping enough clean sheets and scoring enough goals. A baptism of fire at Anfield tonight. Damage limitation. If they are thumped tonight, then they are doomed. Relegation.

Sheffield United:

The hope: Bramall Lane is a fortress. The home support is vocal and make an intimidating atmosphere.

The fear: Lack of goals becomes an issue early and often.

The expectation: Out of the promoted sides, Sheffield United may impress early doors but squad depth issues may surface. If sides can cope with Sheffield United uptempo game in the opening half of games, then Sheffield United could get picked off. Brave attempt to stay in the league but fear that they may be relegated.

Southampton:

The hope: new manager has had the summer to part his football ethos to the squad; got rid of Charlie Austin and Matt Targett surprisingly to spook the rest of the squad to perform.

The fear: If Danny Ings gets injured, who takes on the goalscoring mantle? Long is honest as the day is long but the goal / appearance ratio is low.

The expectation: Difficult season if Redmond fails to fire early doors. Just about will survive. The youth setup at the club will come to the club’s aid once more.

Tottenham:

The hope: Pochettino has a settled squad, no major squad inclusions and the side will look to rebound from the disappointment of the Champions League final. The first full season at the Lane; home form paramount.

The fear: The lack of transfer activity in the summer defensively. Trippier departure means that squad depth must deliver early. Can Dele be the key player for the club in midfield given Eriksen and an impending departure from the club in January?

The expectation: Flirting with a title race but will sit in third place again. Pochettino will look for pastures new come the end of the season.

Watford:

The hope: continue the good form of last season; early form was the platform. The attacking threat with Deeney and Success should pose issues for sides.

The fear: The chopping and changing at the club. What happens if there is an indifferent start to the season? Garcia immediately on the backfoot.

The expectation: Top ten position. Watford have sufficient quality to stay in the division yet not in the mix for top eight.

West Ham United:

The hope: the squad will galvanized after the departure of Marko. The squad looks settled for the most part and the emergence of Declan Rice as a leader this season. Felipe Anderson will be a key threat.

The fear: the love / hate relationship of the fans with the owners could influence matters on the pitch. An indifferent start to the season – take note.

The expectation: Midtable position again. Squad form inconsistencies key throughout the season.

Wolverhampton:

The hope: continue the form and quality of last season, an incredible debut season in the top flight. The football on show was sublime at times.

The fear: Europa League commitments means extra strain on the team. Burnley had challenges last season. Will the same fate fall on Wolves?

The expectation: Top eight / top ten berth would be considered a successful second season. Attacking qualities will pose opposition problems.