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20th Mar 2023

Sean Cavanagh is completely baffled by Armagh’s decision to ‘park the bus’

Lee Costello

“I don’t get this at all.”

Sean Cavanagh is completely baffled by Armagh’s decision to ‘park the bus’ and set up defensively, when they have such attacking prowess available to them.

The former Tyrone star was visibly irritated after viewing Armagh’s loss to Galway in the Allianz National League, not because he has any affiliation with the team, but because their new style of play is frustrating to watch.

Last year, Kieran McGeeney had his side playing ‘helter skelter’ football, kicking long balls, taking the route one option, and getting great success from it.

Cavanagh Armagh

This season they are clearly trying to address defensive frailties that they might have, but it seems to be harming them more than helping them.

By making their star forwards track back and make their runs from deep, they are effectively taking the most dangerous people in front of goal, further away from the nets.

The demands needed for this running game is also very taxing on the body, and can lead to poor decisions and mistakes.

Cavanagh Armagh

Speaking on the League of Sunday, Cavanagh couldn’t get his around this defensive structure, especially when the answer is so ‘obvious’.

“I don’t get this at all because they were gifted 1-1, and they ended up getting five scores when they had all of the motivation, up against the team that beat them on penalties last year – really, we are waiting for them to kick on.

“I remember mentioning a couple of years ago, sitting here and saying if Armagh can get an attack of Campbell, O’Neill, Murnin, Grugan – all top class scorers, all ball winners in their own right, playmakers in their own right – and all of a sudden they’re parking these guys in midfield

Cavanagh Armagh

“They have gone to this defensive style of game, probably looking at last year and thinking that they conceded too much against Galway, we better go and park the bus.

“But you go and park the bus, and you have these great ball-winners, playmakers, scorers, playing in this transition type game, while they’re having to run 50 metres backwards, 50 metres forwards – GPS stats look great, I have no doubt in that.

“Even that tonight, sometimes you’re looking ahead of the play and they have got eight players ahead of the play, and I almost feel that they’re running ahead of the play to be seen to be ahead of the play, and then they’re blocking up space.

Cavanagh Armagh

“It’s very simple, if you look at Kerry, the rest of the players get the ball forward and put it in the hands of David Clifford. If you look at Galway, they get the ball forward and put it in the hands of Shane Walsh.

“Armagh has got Rian O’Neill, a player of that ilk, and that quality – get the ball forward, get it into his hands. Let the other guys open the gate, and let guys of that quality be the ones who are going to take the shot.

“It ends up guys on the end of moves who have either un 70-80 metres, and they’re out of gas, ball maybe dropped short, they take the wrong option, and they are very easy to play against.”

Cavanagh Armagh

The fact that Ethan Rafferty, the Armagh goalkeeper, is at the heart of a large chunk of their attacks, highlights how they aren’t getting the most from more forward-orientated players.

“I have caught a few of their games now, and I would say that I’ve spent as much time talking about Ethan Rafferty coming forward and playing as an attacker, as I’ve spent talking about Rian O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, or Andrew Murnin, or Rory Grugan – Aidan Forker is a better attacker than Ethan Rafferty.

“There seems to be this bit of a sideshow of ‘we will control the game, and we will come from deep’, whenever the answer is so obvious.

“You have these brilliant attackers who can win the ball if they moved it a little bit quicker, and they backed the players that they had.”

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