Monday 11 December 2017

Dermot Crowe: Cork and Clare to offer slight alterations to fitting masterpiece

Clare's Brendan Bugler
Clare's Brendan Bugler

Dermot Crowe

IT would have been a fitting final offertory to a devil-may-care season; Clare and Cork created an absorbing masterpiece almost three weeks ago.

Hurling has become accustomed to seeing the same classic portrait being hung in September, surrounded by a sturdy black and amber frame. This year changed that and brought new and varied exhibitions. 

Which left the All-Ireland final with a lot to fulfil and live up to - it did not disappoint. Draws usually leave a tantric sense of unfulfillment, but even this was better than most. Cork looked to have consigned Clare to a harrowing defeat courtesy of a superlative score from Pat Horgan. What more could the game give? How about a sensational final levelling score from corner back Domhnall O’Donovan, one that will be remembered and recalled for a long time.

For a draw, then, it was oddly complete, and the huge aggregate score only matched by the Leinster hurling final shootout between Dublin and Galway. There were all sorts of quirky inconsistencies to pick from. Clare scoring 25 points and not winning. Cork, with one goal in the championship, raising three green flags in the second half alone. Clare’s abandonment of the sweeper system and unveiling of Conor Ryan as a totemic figure of defiance at the back.

And the dramatic talking points. Anthony Nash’s spectacular goal bids from placed balls. The peacock-like behaviour of the two net-minders, Nash and Patrick Kelly, in disputing territory; the latter racing from goal to stop the former’s first 20m attempt, leading to protests that Kelly had breached rule and the shot should have been retaken. In the second half he faced one again; this time Nash found the net with a powerful shot, and was denied another by a miraculous stop from a Cork penalty.

What will happen the next day if Nash is presented with another chance? The issues raised will not be resolved by then and should occupy the attentions of the game’s caretakers over the winter. Nash is not doing anything intrinsically different in essence; like many others he is gaining some metres. The difference lies in how many metres; he shaves several off the distance laid down in rule.

His doing so is part of the game’s evolution, a player sufficiently talented pushing out the game’s frontiers. But it will also serve as a challenge to the rules themselves to react accordingly when or if deemed necessary. Who knows: someday a wizard may leave Nash in the lurch and lift the ball forward even farther. What then?

For now, though, Clare will be doing their utmost to avoid conceding goals to Nash by the best means possible: not giving away frees in the first place.

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