Thursday 14 December 2017

A most unlikely pairing for final

Dean Goodison

Gusserane defender Cathal Somers keeping tabs on Conor Carty of Castletown during the semi-final in Innovate Wexford Park
Gusserane defender Cathal Somers keeping tabs on Conor Carty of Castletown during the semi-final in Innovate Wexford Park

Few looking at the list of the twelve teams down to contest the Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship at the start of the season would have picked a final of Glynn-Barntown versus Gusserane.

But isn't that the beauty of this particular championship over the last couple of decades? Theoretically, anyone can win it. Realistically, a decent case can be made for eight or nine of the clubs at the beginning of any given year, the finalists amongst them.

But only one can be champion. Only one team will walk back into the dressing-room with exhausted elation etched on their faces, only one will sip from the cup, only one will be able to relay the heroics of a windy 2016 afternoon in Innovate Wexford Park to their grandchildren in 30 years' time.

But who? Gusserane are the been here, not quite done that, side. Six final losses in a row is an unwanted stat but only the last one can really mean anything, and that's only if the New Ross District men allow it to chip away at their psyche.

2016 is not 2014. Real parallels are only drawn after the event. The nucleus of the side might be the same but this team has a different stamp, an identity of their own that has developed over the past two seasons. Now is the time to lean on that identity as they go searching for their destiny.

Gusserane, very much like their opponents, are not afraid to kick the ball. Yet they mix it up, go long when the opportunity arises but control possession when the situation dictates. They are clever football players, a smart team.

Their defence is young and athletic, with the experienced Cathal Somers well able to hold his own amongst the tireless tackling of his younger team-mates. There will be very few uncontested shots at their posts on Sunday, that's for certain.

The stats back it up. Gusserane have conceded just over nine scores a game, they have yet to allow more than one goal a game in seven matches to date, and they have been consistently dropping the amount conceded per match since their round-robin clash with St. Martin's.

The six points conceded against Castletown was their best effort of the year, followed by the 1-6 allowed in the quarter-final against St. Anne's. Okay, the Gorey District side had wides - forced wides by a defence that has ratcheted up a level in the knockout stages.

In the middle they have dynamism and strength in Adrian Flynn and John Roche. They have a big task against Glynn-Barntown, as will Cillian Kehoe, if and when he makes an appearance, but they can do enough in there to tip the game in Gusserane's favour.

Seán 'Mini' Ryan was held scoreless in the semi-final. For that to happen and his side to still win bodes well for Gusserane. It will be interesting to see if Glynn-Barntown choose to deploy their best man marker, Rob Tierney, on the talented young forward.

Kenneth Cahill and Shane Cullen add experience in attack. They both might be a little bit removed from their heyday but both are dangerous attackers who are adept at being in the right place, at the right time, when the runs of Adrian Redmond, Páuric Conway and Jamie Cooney commit defenders and spaces open up.

Looking to keep them in check is a Glynn-Barntown defence that has conceded a little more freely, but not by a massive amount. Like Gusserane, the Wexford District side have let in five goals in seven games but have allowed two twice.

They looked a little shaky until star man Tierney was introduced against Shelmaliers in the quarter-finals, as he is their rock in the full-back line. Still, with John Leacy anchoring the defence, and a few years of experience now in the four probable starters in wide areas - Stephen Lyne, Pádraig Donnelly, Nigel Usher and Alan Cowman - Luke Rafter's goal is unlikely to be bombarded.

The Doyles, Michael and Brendan, will looked to physically boss midfield but they get plenty of aid from their half-forward line in that regard. That said, Glynn-Barntown are a dangerous attacking side who have a host of players capable of damaging Gusserane.

They have scored 9-78 in their seven games, 4-10 more than their opponents on Sunday. It should be noted that much of that scoring was done before Mark Fanning came back into the side and he has added another dimension to their forward play.

His inclusion has given Glynn-Barntown more opportunities to drop Michael O'Regan deeper, without taking away scoring threat from inside. They have two ways of playing it long, wide to Fanning and Robert Dempsey if O'Regan is deep, or right into the melting pot if the rangy attacker is playing close to the square. Both can be devastatingly effective.

With Craig Doyle, James Stafford and Barry Doyle working off the big trio, there's a lot to like about the way that Glynn-Barntown play football. There are so many facets to their game that it makes defending against them an extremely difficult task.

So, all that said, who will be county champions come Sunday evening? The bookies make Glynn-Barntown the 4/7 favourites to lift the cup, having had them as the outsiders of the four before the semi-final. Gusserane are 5/4.

They might have got it wrong before but that sounds about right. Glynn-Barntown's firepower makes them slight favourites but if any team can blunt them it's this Gusserane side. This is going to be a close contest, a classic battle and there surely will be no more than a kick of a ball in it at the end.

Glynn-Barntown are the tentative pick to take their second-ever Senior football crown but they better be ahead in the last ten minutes because this Gusserane side is not going to cough up a lead if the title is within touching distance.

Wexford People

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