There is one surefire way to excite the Croke Park crowd and instantly manifest a palpable buzz in the stand. It is extraordinarily simple but brutally effective; get the goalkeeper to come outfield.
Over the past two years, roaming goalkeepers has become much more prominent. It essentially sees a goalkeeper get on the ball and run beyond the '21, give the ball off and retreat to his goal from there. Stephen Cluxton's cameo in the Allianz League clash against Kerry is a perfect example.
Nobody in space?
— eir Sport (@eirSport) March 11, 2018
Cluxton often elects for this option, Monaghan's Rory Beggan does so as well. Another man frequently fond of a venture outfield is Laois number one Graham Brody. Yet Laois's use of the tactic is distinctively different. John Sugre's side have blurred the lines and now effectively play with 15 outfield players.
Brody plays half-forward for Portlaoise and is well able physically and technically to play outfield.
When asked about his drives forward earlier this year, Laois manager John Sugrue told Balls.ie it was initiated by the goalkeeper.
I think Graham, to a certain degree, has done that himself.
Graham is a very inventful guy and he's got an open mind to what ways he can positively influence how the team plays. We work with him on that front, encourage him and see if it fits into our gameplan. If it does, great, but if it doesn't, we'll have to curtail it. So far, he's been very influential for us.
There are numerous benefits to this for Laois. Firstly, it aids their kick-out strategy. Brody almost never uses a tee and kicks short against teams that forgo a full pitch press. Traditionally this would see the ball go from goalkeeper to corner-back, who carries forward as they gradually begin an attack.
Brody does not do this. He often demands the ball back from his team-mate and contributes to the attack, immediately creating an overlap. While last weekend's victory over Carlow was not televised, the league final between those sides was and therefore we can see an example of this tactic from that game.
Carlow kick a wide, before the umpire has even raised his hands Brody is ready to kick the ball. He does not use a tee.
It is a short kick-out. Carlow have already funneled men back.
Brody goes for the one-two and carries until an opposition player tries to tackle him.
He goes beyond that player and gives the ball off near the half-way line.
There is no limit to how far Brody goes, no pressure for him to immediately get back and no panic from his team-mates who are clearly well-drilled and familiar with the tactic.
Yet his contribution does not have to begin with a kick-out. On Sunday, Laois met an extremely defensive and organised Carlow team. For large parts of the game, Laois held the ball just outside the '45 or 'scoring zone' while their opponents funneled men back and kept them at bay. A one-man overlap in this situation is crucial and Brody looked to create that.
On numerous occasions, he carried forward, gave the ball off but continued his run and eventually got it back. At this stage, he was deep in Carlow territory and ran hard at a retreating defense. The entire stadium noticeably grew agitated but Laois did not. The sight of a player in the midst of the action with a different jersey just guarantees confusion. Twice, Brody drew a free and opportunity for Donie Kingston.
Second half incident.
Brody used a similar tactic against Wexford in the first round of the Leinster championship, something Ciaran Whelan highlighted at the time on the Sunday Game: "You have to admire it, it was six or seven times he did this. The admiration I'd have for him is he chooses the right time to do it. He's very comfortable in possession. It is a risk, a huge risk and he maybe struggles to get back. He maybe needs to get back a bit quicker. "
— Ciaran Whelan (@whelo35) May 13, 2018
Once again, Brody did not retreat after the first pass but continued forward and often found himself in scoring positions.
Ciaran Whelan said Brody should get back quicker while Sean Cavanagh said the runs were not a good idea, but that underestimates the level of organisation within the Laois panel to make it work.
The primary concern is what happens when the ball is turned over, which happened on more than one occasion on Sunday. In that instance, Laois still have three defenders at the back (Attride, Timmons, Dillon) while at most Carlow had two forwards. Thus, Timmons drops into the goalmouth, the corner-backs mark their men and Brody becomes an outfield player for the rest of the play. From Hill '16 there is an ideal spot to witness this contingency plan. There is no panic, no scramble, just a simple rejig and they carry on.
Beyond that, Brody is in constant discussion with all six backs and at times jogged out to a team-mate in order to communicate with him. Laois now progress to their first Leinster final since 2007 where they will face Dublin, which poses several interesting questions. Firstly, the game will be televised resulting in an inevitable increase in interest for Brody. Dublin will not give up the short kick-out so the give-and-goes will be curtailed. Should the ball be turned over the rejig will need to be immediate.
So far the tactic has been overwhelmingly successful and Laois are maximizing a position that has been underutilized until now. It is fair to expect other teams to start experimenting in the near future.