It was interesting watching the match a second time, this time on TV. The ‘analysis’ is always entertaining if not insightful. What you have is guys who haven’t seen much of the sides in action. The men on the RTE sofa only see Wexford once or twice a year meaning it’s hard to get a real feel for their ethos and ideas. For what it’s worth Joe Brolly was a bit closer to the mark.
Contrary to Pat Spillane’s wishes football is no longer a simple game. For the advantages of every system there are negatives. It’s certainly not as easy as saying Jason Ryan is getting it wrong, while he makes mistakes, everyone does, nobody knows these Wexford players better than Ryan.
The primary complaint against Wexford’s performance was the overuse of the hand-pass. The overriding solution to this seemed to be simply kick the ball in quicker. Yet there are too many reasons why a hand-passing style of game suits Wexford, especially as they lined up on Sunday.
Firstly, the players available. The core zone that can implement an accurate, quick, kicking game into the forwards range from the half-back line to midfield. In the half-back line Lee Chin was making his debut, his passing was ok but it’s fair to say that his athleticism and defensive abilities exceed his football skills set right now. Brian Malone has spent as much time in the full-back line as the half-back line and while his distribution is decent, it’s far from consistent.
The midfield duo of Quinlivan and Waters add plenty of bite but, again, they are not in the team because of their kicking abilities. Nationally, as a duo, the level of their kick-passing would have to fall in the below average category. That’s one of the reasons why Andy Shore’s injury was so debilitating as the Davidstown native has a better range of passing without being exceptional.
That leaves only Adrian Flynn. The best foot-passer in the zone. He was able to show this for a while in both halves before dropping a little deeper as the game wore on. Indeed, it was often left to Ben Brosnan to fall back a little himself, which allowed him to pick up possession and play 20-30 yard accurate passes towards the inside forwards. Again the return of Aindreas Doyle and David Murphy will add a little extra in terms of passing, they are both a step up distribution wise on their replacements, but don’t expect a drastic change of emphases. That’s because of the second reason…
Wexford rarely had the one-on-ones that Longford had. It’s clearly visible that, even when Wexford did become more direct in the second half, invariably Red, Shane Roche and Ciaran Lyng were all double teamed quickly because, while Longford get plenty of men behind the ball, they leave plenty there when in possession too.
It’s, in many ways the price you pay for being an attacking side. Wexford’s defence is much maligned, stats are brought up about goals conceded and the full-back line get the blame. It’s shockingly lackadaisical punditry. No full-back line in the county is left as exposed as the Wexford final three – again the price you pay for being the most attacking side in the country. Yes, at times they were a bit loose, but there’s no such thing as a shut-down defender – everyone concedes now and again.
It’s not wild conjecture, it’s back up by scoring stats and is in plain view for those willing to look for it. The vast majority of goal chance Wexford give up are the result of one of two things, and often a combination of both. Coughing up possession in the middle third of the field, and runners breaking in behind the uber-attacking half-back line. It’s one of the reasons why in every post-match interview with the Wexford boss he stresses his frustration at turnovers – they are just so, so damaging to his game plan.
The third reason is possession and tiredness. The added bonus to such a game plan is that, not only if you have possession the others cant score, but more importantly, if you have the ball the other side has to work to get it off back, while you left the ball do a lot of the work. It’s part of the reason Wexford have been able to finish strong against Longford, the game plan has simply worn them down.
I suppose there is something ironic about Pat Spillane and his disgust at puke football. You put the most attacking side in the country in front of him and he’s still not happy. You cant have it every way.