Hawkeye Sidekick

Galway beat Limerick as John Kiely puts spotlight firmly on free count and player simulation

John Kiely post game comments after defeat to Galway – Credit: Sporting LK

A key six points victory for Galway (0-26 to 1-17) as they halt Limerick’s run of victory over the Tribesmen which had stood at four successive wins prior to yesterday. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the fixture action.

Massive win for Galway

The result is a key momentum and confidence for Shane O’Neill’s charges as they look forward to having a major say in the shakeup of the league.

Galway were the better side yesterday. The middle third unit was more cohesive with David Burke and Cathal Mannion in midfield setting down the marker early with some superb individual points.

Evan Niland continued his fine form for Galway this season. His free taking is superb and he was lights out with 0-14 on the day. The Clarinbridge clubman is poised to play a big role in this year’s campaign.

The other key positive for Galway was Niall Burke’s performance in the full forward line. Burke was hungry for ball from minute one, had several standout moments with excellent wins in the air which setup frees for Niland to slot over.

The defensive side was solid. Yes, there was the occasional Hegarty burst but for the most part, Galway’s back line kept Cian Lynch in check and were dogged in their defensive play.

Shane O’Neill is building a nice side here and the chance to introduce Joe Canning in the middle of the park in the third quarter is a move which we could see more of this year.

Canning has expressed a wish to go deeper this season to get on more ball. Canning’s distribution was superb yesterday and his experience will be vital for Galway again.

There are performance tweaks required from Galway. Niland dominated the scoring so there is an onus on the forward line unit to step up and score more regularly. 0-12 from the rest of the side is something to improve upon.

The defensive unit is still a work in progress. Padraig Mannion at half back was solid throughout but there were occasions where a loose pass on another day could have been punished.

Overall though, the result was to win against the All Ireland Champions. Mission accomplished.

Limerick will learn from this outing

John Kiely used this fixture to blood new players into senior intercounty action. Brian O’Grady and Cathal O’Neill worked hard but got a baptism of fire of the intensity in this level of competition.

O’Grady worked hard in the opening period but was exposed by Galway overlaps on more than one occasion. O’Neill found it hard to get any space inside and when he did get an opportunity, he elected to shot for goal which was saved by Eanna Murphy.

Limerick’s tempo was inconsistent yesterday. There were some lovely passages of play where Hegarty had several cameos bursting through the Galway defense after fine aerial takes. Diarmuid Byrnes’ distribution from the half back line setting up scores for the Limerick inside forward line.

The run game never really was established yesterday by Limerick in the middle third. Was it the stop / start nature of the contest but I can’t remember many times when Limerick’s half back line looked to run with the sliothar and create overlaps that we are so use to seeing from this side.

The key topic post game was again the free count. Twenty-four frees conceded by Limerick during the seventy minutes. It is way too high similar to the opening round draw against Tipperary.

Some of it can be corrected by training and refining the tackle technique but there were some frees that looked soft in the extreme, players going to ground early when anticipating contact.

Limerick appeared to have a hard time trying to win a free themselves. There were a couple of incidents where Galway players were pulling at Limerick’s players and hurls, no frees given.

The Hegarty incident where Tuohy clipped Hegarty on the helmet was a clear miss from the officials. No free in sight with Cleere and Owens well positioned to make the call. It was one of those days for Limerick.

It is a good motivation for Limerick for the rest of the season. Limerick have tried players in the league and will continue to do so with the trip to Kilkenny this weekend. The speed and match sharpness will improve.

Limerick will improve but can they get on the right side of officiating crews from now on? The comments from John Kiely post game resembled a manager deeply frustrated on officiating calls.

When the words ‘rock bottom’ are used to describe officiating, it is time for the GAA officiating head to start listening and schedule a conference call with managers to set expectations for the rest of the year.

Hurling at a crossroads?

The pattern of the game last season to me had shifted from the free flowing games of previous years. The possession based style of play is the norm now, the need for players to support the man on the ball creating overlaps.

There are shades of Lacrosse in the way hurling is now played with the movement and running lines used. The officiating crews are having a hard time keeping pace with the players whose conditioning is off the charts.

The umpire unit for the game yesterday in Salthill were left hopelessly exposed on the Peter Casey point. Two umpires were standing beside the posts with no clear angle of the shot. Can an umpire sufficiently do their job on pitch side, do they need to go to an elevated position behind the goals to do their job?

The free count yesterday mirrored other games. The tackle is now in murky water territory. I could not tell what is a legitimate tackle in hurling? Anthony Daly as much today in his piece with the Irish Examiner.

The days of ground hurling are finished. You are not allowed to whip on a ball anymore on the ground or in the air for fear of censure. The days of the 50/50 battle appear to be dead given the start of this league campaign. The physicality element of the game was diluted last season but this season, it has become extinct.

I am not sure what GAA HQ can do now to reverse this now. The pattern is now set. Officials are in that mindset to blow the whistle regularly and often.

The entertainment value yesterday during this marquee fixture was distinctly poor. Imagine paying to watch that spectacle yesterday? Fans would have been leaving the ground well before full time.

Hurling needs as much as support and positive assistance as possible. Antrim’s win over Clare provided an amazing story for the opening weekend but the current product on the pitch in this league campaign is in dire need of attention.

How can hurling get back to the traditional values? The defensive setup of sides now, are we at a point where goalkeepers will no longer be required? Put an outfield player in the goals for distribution first, saves second.

GAA rule changes has created a monster which has no intention of going anywhere. The steps to mitigate will be an interesting watch in the coming weeks.

As John Kiely said, we have no fans now and potentially no fans when fans are allowed back into GAA ground if this style of game continues. Food for thought for all concerned with hurling at this critical juncture.