Monday 20 February 2017

O'Connor: Banner have put League woes behind them but Cork could struggle

Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30

O’Connor: Clare to bounce back (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)
O’Connor: Clare to bounce back (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)

Former Clare hurler Jamesie O'Connor believes the county have put their troubled League campaign behind them and can have a huge influence on the forthcoming Championship.

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Clare were relegated after a great battle with Kilkenny in Nowlan Park but O'Connor, speaking at the launch of Sky Sports' Championship coverage in London yesterday, feels they still finished the campaign on a sufficiently positive note to be able to look forward to the summer with plenty of enthusiasm.

"Clare will probably take more positives out of the League the way it finished and the form of key players in terms of (Shane) O'Donnell and (Tony) Kelly, than Limerick or Galway could," he said.

"I think it's in the rear view mirror from a Clare perspective."

However, O'Connor feels that the statement Clare issued after the controversial departure of Davy O'Halloran and Nicky O'Connell (who has since returned) was ill-advised.

"It (the controversy) was probably dead and buried until the statement was released," he suggested.

"That was, in hindsight, something the management would look back on and say 'we might have been as well off to leave sleeping dogs lie'."

O'Connor has expressed doubts over Cork's credentials as potential All-Ireland champions in the wake of their disappointing League final defeat to Waterford last weekend.

"Jimmy Barry (Murphy) has his convictions and they haven't served Cork that badly over the years," he said.

"You go back to last season, they put Clare to the sword in the first game, were very impressive at times in the Munster final, and they have a lot of good players.

"But I'm still not sure. You feel with Tipperary and Kilkenny, you feel even with Clare at the moment that they can create things.

"Cork have excellent individual players but you just wonder are they going to cut you apart the way Tipp can, the way Kilkenny can. They didn't really look like scoring a goal last weekend."

O'Connor feels Waterford are not the finished article despite their League success - they took out Division 1A opponents in three successive matches with impressive conviction.

"Waterford don't have a Shane O'Donnell with the raw pace. Maurice (Shanahan) is a different kind of player," he said.

"Now maybe you can hit a different type of ball into Maurice but I think Waterford, to an extent, are a little bit like Clare were in 2012. The game-plan isn't fully there yet, it's a work in progress.

"You have to have players like O'Donnell, Conor McGrath and Tony Kelly, fellas that have the athleticism to get in and support to play that game."

O'Connor believes the genesis of the Waterford game-plan was their League match with Clare last year.

"To me that is where this all began because Clare riddled Waterford. They were so naïve. There was 80 metres in front of the Waterford full-back line. Clare had five in the net at half-time," he said.

"The game was dead and buried and they went from having a couple of good wins under their belt to having the wind knocked out of their sails. They lost the next two games and were relegated.

"I think Derek McGrath went back from that evening in Ennis and said, 'we can't ever allow that to happen again'. This system is very much predicated on that."

Irish Independent

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