*Seamus Callanan reacts quickest and buries the ball in the Clare goal despite Patrick O’Connor’s attempts. Photograph: Martin Connolly
The Clare Echo’s Darach Honan reflects on Clare’s thirteen point defeat to Tipperary and looks at possible changes for Sunday’s must-win tie against Limerick.
For a Man United supporting South East Clare man, the sporting results on the bank holiday weekend could not have gone any worse. On Saturday night, I had to sit in Stritches pub in Clonlara and listen to an army of gloating Liverpool fans soak in another European Cup victory. I tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter and that tomorrow Waterford would beat Limerick and Clare would hold home advantage and topple Tipperary. I was sadly mistaken.
In truth, I went to Cusack Park much more in hope than anticipation of a Clare victory. After watching Limerick beat Waterford at a canter as Tipperary had done the week previous, I wondered where that left this Clare team who had only won marginally in Walsh Park in their first outing. I said before the game that this match would give us a clearer picture of where both teams were at. We now know that Tipperary are currently the best team in the country, and that Clare are a long way off that pace as things stand.
It was a strange performance from Clare. Playing into a very strong wind in the first half, they probably would have taken a six-point deficit at the half. They started brightly with our backs attacking the ball well and the movement of our forwards creating scoring chances. In fact, had we been more clinical and a little less selfish in our shot selection we could have been a lot closer than six down at the half. After 20 minutes, we were just 1 down and looked to be in a great position. Then came the first Tipperary goal. From this point on we were hanging on until halftime.
One hoped that in the second half Clare would come out and push on with the wind. However, they were dealt a cruel blow when Seamus Callanan was first to react to a ball that rebounded off the post and finished to the net. It’s a shame to say this about any team, but it appeared as though after this goal that Clare gave up. From this point on in the match Tipperary demonstrated their superiority in all facets of the game. They physically dominated us in their backs and midfield and played ball to their forwards that didn’t allow us to lay a glove on them.
In the second half we looked totally at sea and Tipperary did all the hurling. We lost all shape and direction, particularly in the half forward line where we withdrew our forwards far too close to our own goal. As expected, Tipperary played Pádraic Maher as a sweeper in the second half when playing against the wind and our set up made it extremely easy for Pádraic to intercept and mop up most of the Clare ball into the forwards.
Many supporters were frustrated that Clare decided to employ Colm Galvin as a sweeper in the second half. Clare were playing with a gale of a wind and found themselves down 13 points, yet Colm was playing a covering role in defence. Tipperary’s use of the ball was good enough to bypass Colm every time they set up an attack, so it was an ineffective tactic. Knowing how good Colm is to win breaking ball and how dangerous he is when in possession, he was needed further up the field when chasing the game.
As a former full-forward myself, one thing I will never understand is the clustered formation that many managers now utilise in the full forward line. For most of the second half, John, Shane and Podge were playing so close to each other in the Tipperary goalmouth that you could have thrown a blanket over them, their markers and the sweeper. The idea of this is to create space on the wings. However, having played that position I would much rather create space closer to the goal and create one v ones. These players are good enough to do damage when competing one v one with their markers, but by playing this close to each other they are inviting two covering defenders each time the ball came in.
On RTÉ radio after the game, the talk was what do Clare need to do differently next weekend to beat Limerick. Unfortunately, there are not many positives to be taken from last weekends game, so the answer will be everything! An intense rivalry has developed between this Clare team and their Limerick counterparts. Many in Clare, myself included, felt that if we had gotten over Galway in last year’s semi-final that we would have had enough to beat Limerick in the final. Limerick will have taken note of this talk and will feel as though they have a point to prove in beating the only team to defeat them in last year’s championship.
We can expect some changes to the Clare line-up next weekend. My feeling is that from last week’s game, only David McInerney and Cathal Malone will be happy with their performances. The Tulla and Ennistymon men fought valiantly right to the end. However, there will be others that started who may feel their position is in jeopardy. Conor Cleary added a physical presence when introduced and his use of the ball when in possession was good also. I expect that he will slot into the team.
Niall Deasy, who has starred for Ballyea in recent seasons would add another physical edge to the team that was lacking versus Tipp. Niall is well able to win his own ball and take his score. Many around Clare will wonder why he has not been fully utilised within the county set-up thus far. You would expect after a result like last weekend’s that training this week will be spiky. Lads who did not see game time or who want to see more than given will be pushing very hard to get into the team. It will be interesting to see who will gain the attention of Donal and Gerry this week and force their way into the team as a little bit of a shakeup may be needed.
On form, you would have to favour Limerick to beat Clare this weekend. Luckily for us, with this Shannonside derby the form book goes out the window. When the fixtures were announced for this years Munster championship, this game was the one I would have circled and looked forward to the most. You can be sure that many of the players will feel the same way. The great thing about our new Munster Championship format is that after a disappointing loss like last weekend, you have the chance to bounce back immediately. There would be no better way to put a loss like last weekend’s behind you than going on to beat the reigning All-Ireland champions the following week. Living in Clonlara and working in Limerick, all would be forgiven if we could come away from this weekend’s game with a win.