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From 55% To 100%: How Clare's Tactical Switch Did Wonders For Their Puck-Outs

From 55% To 100%: How Clare's Tactical Switch Did Wonders For Their Puck-Outs
By Maurice Brosnan
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In both codes, the significance of the kick/puck out has become increasingly obvious this year. In a game where possession is key and the puck-out total can reach as high as 100, the attacking platform this re-start provides is vital and Galway and Clare will have learned a lot from Saturday's contest.

Last weekend Croke Park bore witness to a thrilling 1-30 to 1-30 draw after extra-time, but that only tells half the story. Galway roared into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead and midway through the first half, it was obvious Clare were struggling. However, two key moves drastically improved their fortunes. The first was moving Colm Galvin back into a sweeper role, the second was the improvement in their puck-outs.

Stats from Sure, the official statistics partner of the GAA confirmed that in the first half, Clare were 12/22 on their own puck-out for a 55% return. In the second half, they were 17/17 with a 100% return.

The two changes are actually intertwined. On RTE Commentary for the game was former Tipperary goalkeeper and current Kerry coach Brendan Cummins. Midway through the first half, he criticised Clare's movement as opposed to the delivery of the ball.

There is one of the mentors down there having a chat with him. To be fair to Donal Tuohy, he gives a short puck out and you can see the man call for it. But if you plant your two feet in Croke Park and don't attack the ball the likes of Conor Cooney and Joe Canning will come in and take it off you. They need more movement.

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Clare's options were strengthened by moving Galvin back as Galway did not push a man up on him. Therefore, he was either free or occupying a Galway forward and creating space for someone else. Galway's first half-half puck-out success rate was not much better than Clare's but it is less obvious when it is not a short puck-out. Ultimately, Clare won 39 of their own puck-outs, out of a grand total of 51. Galway had 49 puck-outs and won 25. This was something discussed on this week's So-Called Weaker Podcast. 

Galway's inferior puck-outs was not a considerable issue given their ferocious tackling and work-rate. Possession was just slightly in Clare's favour at 52% but Galway's tackle total was twice Clare's, 38 versus 19.

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Galway will look to mirror Clare's approach by utilising their sweeper as an option or isolating big forwards like Jonathan Glynn and Conor Cooney for a one-on-one battle in the same way Clare did with Peter Duggan. It also means the sweeper's use of possession is important, as he collects short and delivers long.

Interestingly, Sure also addressed the perceived difference between shooting into the Hill 16 end and the Canal End. Historically, the difference is actually minor. However, the swirling wind last weekend did have an impact with a 4.7% between each end.

This Sunday the sides will do battle in Thurles, Semple Stadium. Micheál Donoghue, Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor will all be painfully aware of the importance of the puck-out, and what needs to be done in order to counter it.

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All stats discussed in the article come via GaelicStats.com. Sure is the official statistics partner of the GAA 

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