*Clare manager, Brian Lohan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
BREATHING SPACE was afforded to Clare through their ability to net three first-half goals, senior hurling manager Brian Lohan reflected on their dominant eight point victory over Tipperary.
Clare’s strong start to the Munster SHC puts them in a healthy version before they point the cars back towards the direction of Tipperary for their second championship outing when they face off with Kieran Kingston’s Cork on Sunday.
Lohan was very happy with the outcome of their first championship bow of the year. “I’m delighted with the win, coming down here is a hard place to come and I’m delighted with our display particularly in the first half, there was loads of errors we made in the second half but the first half was good”.
He outlined, “It was always going to be a massive game coming down here, a massive game to come down to Thurles and play Tipp with the quality they have, we’d have been delighted with a one point win”.
Of the green flags from Ian Galvin, Peter Duggan and Tony Kelly, the two-time All-Ireland winner remarked, “It kept them at arm’s length, they were real tonics for us when they came, I’m delighted with it”.
Plaudits are not dished for the quantity of work undertaken by the county’s hurlers until they secure wins, the Shannon man noted. “They are a good bunch of guys with good spirit in the team, they work hard, they’ve worked hard all year but probably don’t get the plaudits but they have been working hard for the last while, those kind of performances don’t just happen, you have to have the work done. We felt we had a bit of work done, we’re delighted with the win”.
He continued, “We had worked hard and we felt there was a good bit of spirit but we probably didn’t see that in the league, if you’re missing a couple of crucial guys you don’t really see the rewards and the supporters don’t see the rewards for the work you are doing. Glad for the boys that the work they have been doing is rewarded, I’m happy enough with the workrate and spirit”.
Tipperary failed to put together a comeback of note with points from Kelly and Duggan sandwiched between the host’s goals from Ger Browne and Barry Heffernan. “We needed a couple of scores, there was a period when we struck three in a row, that was a big difference to give us a bit of breathing space for the last ten or fifteen minutes, if you were looking at it clinically, we didn’t protect the lead as well as we could so we would have to improve”.
“In the second half, you would have to say Tipp dominated the half-back line and we struggled to win any sort of ball for long periods of the second half, that’s an area we have to work on,” the former full-back stated.
Having been the only team in Munster without a game, Lohan admitted there was a slight worry among the management that their sense of coming in from the cold could have an affect. “The worry we had coming into it was that they would get a jump on us at the start, that was the fear that they were up to the pace of Munster championship, we were hoping they wouldn’t get a jump on us and we wouldn’t be chasing the game, it worked in our favour”.
That there was little focus on Clare across the country prior to Sunday was unsurprisingly something which didn’t bother the Banner boss. “There was so much going on, we saw really good performances from Waterford and Limerick last week, there was focus on them in a really big game in the Gaelic Grounds so it’s probably natural that there wouldn’t be a huge focus on us”.
Understandably pleased to have ten different scorers over the course of the seventy minutes, Brian added, “It’s great to have so many people getting on the scoreboard but it’s not all about getting on the scoreboard either”.
Welcoming back Duggan and Shane O’Donnell to the Clare fold has been a big plus, he acknowledged. Of the Spancilhill towering forward, Lohan said “He’s an exceptionally skilful player, he’s very good with his hands, anytime the ball is coming he’s almost odds on to get a touch on it whatever about winning it clean”. He continued, “They’ve been excellent since they’ve came back, they have worked really hard both of them, it is great for them personally to get the rewards for what they are doing”.
Tipperary manager, Colm Bonnar felt Clare’s strong start made them look very flat. “They seemed to cut us open very quickly once they got a run and they opened it. Now, Hogie (Brian Hogan) made two tremendous saves off two of the shots and normally if you get some kind of luck, you deflect it over the bar, you deflect it wide or someone comes in. It was just the story of the day. They were just so quick on top of everything, in that first kind of 20/25 minutes. It made us look a bit flat footed. That’s something we have to revisit. You know, we had chances as well. Against a team, when Clare are taking theirs, we just needed to kind of give ourselves some hope of staying in the game”.
“Those three goals really pushed the game to a place where we didn’t think we would be. We just need to be more clinical. They have to be a bit more authoritative when taking on those shots on. That will come. When you’re 13 points down and you get a goal, you need to back it up with a couple of points either before or after and that is where you build momentum. Every miss gave Clare more energy but I thought the first 20 minutes we brought a big game to Clare but unfortunately it didn’t happen for us on the scoreboard where it needed to be,” he added.
On what lies ahead for the Premier County, Bonnar stated, “It’s going to test our character. We knew the two games coming up, Limerick and then Cork here. Look, it’s all about building this team, it’s about building leaders, it’s about building players and letting them build those bonds that you need when you’re on the field, when you are fighting for your life. These players were fighting for their life. In fairness, they brought a big fight in the second half”.