Posted by Mickey Harte

Tyrone matched Donegal most of the way before falling short while Meath's young guns need to follow up last Sunday's game with another big performance

2012 Tyrone Donegal 520x280

There are several ways to break down a packed defence but having the players to do it, as well as the right tactics, is of paramount importance.

One of the most important elements of breaking down an opposition with a massed defence is patience. You can’t rush your options because if you do you end up kicking the ball away cheaply and giving it back to the opposition.

To hold possession you need players who are controlled and comfortable on the ball and you need to be able to recycle it with complete confidence and not be worried that it may be perceived as slowing the game down. The mindset has to be right to realise that it’s going to take patience and you’re going to have to take the limited opportunities that occur.

It’s vital to break the line at the right time and there’s no point in just going for the first option. The first option may not be the suitable one and the first option to kick may lose you possession. So it’s about players having their radar very much switched on and having support to make sure that if you can’t do something yourself then there’s somebody else to give it to.

It’s about picking and choosing the right time either to make your move or to make a pass and that requires players playing with their heads up and being able to control the ball under real pressure. Not only that, but players have to be wary that if a move breaks down that’s when you’re most vulnerable on the counterattack.

The best players can think on their feet. You can plan all you want and with video evidence nowadays you can show players what happens when they don’t perform the way they need to in order to counteract certain strategies. When you arm them with that information you really are depending on the players on the field to be able to implement the gameplan.

But it takes time. If players are only faced with a particular style of play once in a while, they are going to take time to adjust, especially if they are used to playing against opposition who employ different tactics. They then won’t necessarily be ready for a team who have perfected a certain system. And whether it’s your first choice of a way of playing or not, you have to be able to deal with what faces you.

We were happy enough with our own performance against Donegal but, obviously, we’re disappointed with the result. I do believe that during the game we gave as good as we got for most of it but just let it slip at a vital time.

It was a game in which there had never been more than a point or two between us but the fact that we let it go to four at a crucial time made a huge difference as it meant that we had to go looking for a goal. And against a defence like Donegal’s, looking for a goal is not an easy task.

If you can play the game on a point-to-point basis, you’re in with a fighting chance to the end.But if you allow a gap to open up it makes it very difficult to get the points that you need in a short space of time. However, we did get goal chances and, in fact, had the better opportunities but didn’t take any of them. If we had, I think it would have been a different story.

KILDARE HAVE HAD the same method of play all year and they weren’t going to change that on Sunday. Tomás O’Connor is a player of great stature and calibre and is in the full-forward line as a target man. But it’s a matter of what happens after he’s won or broken the ball. You need a number of players running off him at pace because he’s not a player who gets the ball, turns and has a shot at goal. He’s a fetcher and a distributor.

That was a weakness for Kildare. They couldn’t get the support around him and that was their Achilles heel. Meath did very well to smother any space in their own full-back line but, as the old adage goes, one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

Conor Gillespie looked very good in midfield as did Alan Forde when he went on solo runs. Damien Carroll was the distributor in a Trevor Giles-type role and Donal Keogan looks like a typical Meath-style defender in the full-back line.

It’s great for them that they have those players coming through but they need to back that performance up with another one the next day. In fact, they need to do it a number of times before you can say that they have arrived.

They did the job on Sunday and it’s the performance that counts the next day, not necessarily winning the Leinster final, but being competitive. If they can achieve that then they are definitely a team on the up again. We’ll have to wait and see to be convinced about them.

CLARE LAST WON a Munster title in 1992 and I just can’t see them winning at the weekend. It will be surprising if Cork are even pushed to the pin of their collar in any way. Clare’s enthusiasm and underdog mentality may keep them going for the first half and if they can do that then they will come out of it with a degree of credibility.

But if they get pummelled early on it could be a very bad final. In the interests of all of us, Clare need to be very diligent and very attentive to the job in the early stages. If they can get to the break within touching distance on the scoreboard then they can begin to ask some questions of Cork.

Teams have been complacent in the past. Limerick have gone in as serious underdogs against Kerry and almost shocked them so it’s not impossible. It’s highly unlikely but, having said that, we’ve often been wrong about these things before.

On the discussion about seeding teams in the province, if you’re going to have an open draw elsewhere then it’s only fair you have one in Munster. This is a huge day for Clare and it’s a great chance for a so-called weaker county to get to a final. They might not always be up against a side of this quality who have won a number of recent league titles and an All-Ireland so there may be other chances to get something out of it.

I think that option ought to be left open to those counties because that’s a real thrill for them and that’s the beauty of provincial finals. These are the teams who won’t win an All-Ireland but they can enjoy these special days so I wouldn’t be in favour of a seeding system.