Sice backs Galway's more settled system to trump Kerry's sweeper
By John Harrington
Former Galway star, Gary Sice, believes the Tribesmen are primed to defeat Kerry in Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC Final.
The Corofin man is feeling confident because the Galway players are so attuned to the system of play that they’re trying to implement, whereas he’s not so sure the same is true for a Kerry team now playing with a sweeper system.
“Yes, they can win this All-Ireland, absolutely,” said Sice. “I think our structure at the moment is the best one for the players available to us and I think we're very settled in that structure, and that's probably where our best opportunity is going to come from.
“I think going after the Kerry sweeper situation they have at the minute is going to be a big part of the game. I'm not so sure that they're comfortable in what they're doing. They've got an understanding of it, but I don't think they're fully settled into that structure yet.
“I think it's a work in progress. Usually when you change to a sweeper system like they have, that doesn't happen in a season. It needs to be tested, and I don't think it has been tested. Dublin without Con (O'Callaghan) are one thing, Dublin with Con are a completely different thing and I don't think that system was tested to its most the last day.
“I don't think they had the danger behind Tadhg Morley that would have been there if Con was present. So I think that's an opportunity for Galway with Damien Comer in the form he's in at the minute. That could bring trouble for Kerry.”
Galway have traditionally gotten a lot of joy from hitting Damien Comer with diagonal deliveries, but Sice doesn’t think this will be the best way to get past Kerry sweeper Tadhg Morley.
“Not necessarily,” he says. “I'd be looking at the confusion Damien can cause by coming to look for that ball. I don't think he's going to get on a whole load of ball in there the next day, I think he'll struggle to get much ball in around the 'D'. I think Derry when they look back will be very disappointed with the way he got that ball out on the 'D' for the few scores he got in the first half because they would have prided themselves on blocking that area.
“I think Tadhg Morley's main mission in life at the moment is to stop that area there and if he does get a chance to get a hand in he's getting double-ups. I think Damien might struggle there, so the opportunity will actually be around the back door with Rob Finnerty and Shane Walsh if he stays in there or with maybe Johnny Heaney who is very good at getting around that block around the 'D' and getting shots off from either side of it.
“I saw opportunities there the last day for Dublin that they didn't take. I don't know if they fully recognised it. I think if Con was there as a focal point there would have been more opportunity for it. I do think Galway will have opportunities there.”
By Sice’s own admission, the brand of football that Galway are playing this year “isn’t for the purists”.
It might not be as attacking a style of play as you’d traditionally associate with the Westerners, but the pragmatic approach is proving to be very effective.
“I think we're now a hybrid of the Padraic and Kevin Walsh systems,” says Sice. “I think it's a great fit for them at the moment. Every team at the start of the year aims for a structure or system but the best coaches can make the system or structure suit the players they have. I don't think it works the other way.
“I think this year the age profile and the clientele available and the fitness of players have all come together. Some players in that panel have struggled for fitness over a period of time through injuries and week on, week off problems. I think they've all had a run at it now at the moment.
“John Daly is a part of that, he's had a good run this year with no injuries and he's been very effective in the middle of Kieran and Dylan there. So the structure suits and the players in the positions they're in are playing at a very high level which is fantastic for all Galway supporters to see.
“Whereas from a Kerry point of view, I think they're between structures at the moment. They frustrated themselves against Mayo by driving a lot of ball in on top of David Clifford and lost a lot and kept Mayo in the game for a long time and gave them opportunities.
“I think against Dublin they went the other way. They got too conservative and tried to run an awful of ball. So I'm not sure they're as comfortable as they think they are, whereas we have gone from strength to strength in our structure since the Mayo game. I think the Armagh battle gave lads more confidence in what they're doing and I think that's why it's working so well for us this year.”