Thursday 18 January 2018

Davy Fitz will stick to his beliefs, insists Ollie Baker

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Ollie Baker is adamant that Davy Fitzgerald will put the experience of 2008 with Waterford to good use as Clare hone their preparations ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland final with Cork.

Baker has credited his old Banner colleague for sticking to his guns with his tactical approach when things got stormy earlier this year.

"He is not going to bow down just because he's getting a bit of pressure from somebody else. He believes in what he is doing," said Baker, who stepped down as Offaly manager last week.

"He has spent the last 16 to 18 months implementing a plan with these Clare players. I think he'd lose the respect of the dressing-room if he changed and he'd also lose his own respect if he was to change or deviate away from his plan. So be believes in what he has."

Baker says Fitzgerald has absorbed the lessons of that heavy defeat by the Cats in '08 and come back a much stronger coach over the last five years as a consequence.

"You have to remember he's been at this level before with Waterford and they suffered against a Kilkenny team who were at the height of their powers on that particular day.

"He learned an awful lot from that. He really went home and studied after that and said: 'This is what we are going to have to do if we are going to make the breakthrough. We have to do something.'

"He firmly believes it, he's studied it and he's implemented it with Waterford with huge success as well," said Baker.

"To win a Munster championship with a Waterford team that everyone was writing off in an era when Tipperary and Cork were dominant was a serious achievement.

Deviate

"He firmly believes and if you know anything about Davy, what he says he believes in and he's not going to deviate from that."

Baker sees an absence of fear in these young Clare hurlers that allows them to make such rapid improvement from game to game.

"As a coach they must be such an easy bunch of players to have. There is a great enthusiasm and I think people are responding to that," said the 1995 and '97 All-Ireland winner.

"The more they are getting a response, the more they want to go out and play as well and they are not afraid to make mistakes.

"They are not afraid to come out in front.

"The greatest example is young David McInerney in the full-back line. He plays from in front, like Brian Lohan of old. It's just playing two steps in front of the full-forward and it hasn't been seen for a long time

"And he comes out comfortably with the ball and if he loses it, 'so what, I'll do the same thing again.' It's that kind of attitude they've brought to the game."

But he also warned of the dangers of a young side brimming with such confidence if things go wrong.

"You could also get caught up. The danger is they are so confident that they could get caught on the hop and the confidence balloon bursts," said Baker.

"Just one pin and it could burst and it could be all gone if a couple of things go wrong."

Baker feels McInerney underpins Clare's best line on the field with Domhnall O'Donovan and Cian Dillon rock solid in the corners beside him.

"It hasn't looked that solid in a long, long, time. They're three good hurlers, but they're also three good defenders.

"I think it their's a good solid look to their full-back line and it has been augmented by the fact that David is inside in the middle holding them all together," he added.

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