Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Colm Keys: Conveyor belt of talent to keep Banner on toes

Seadna Morey, Clare solos out of the Clare defence to relieve the pressure in the final seconds of the All-Ireland SHC final replay
Seadna Morey, Clare solos out of the Clare defence to relieve the pressure in the final seconds of the All-Ireland SHC final replay
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

One of the most significant moments perhaps lost in the wave of jubilation at the end of Saturday's All-Ireland final replay was how the last siege was lifted to finally liberate Clare from Cork after 140 minutes of hectic and pulsating hurling.

Seadna Morey had only just come in for Tony Kelly when he gathered possession in the shadow of his own posts and took off.

It was a scintillating run that took him 50 metres or so clear of the danger zone before his offload to Darach Honan for the insurance goal.

Morey's intervention, laced with so much acceleration, was a timely reminder of just what depth there is to the talent in Clare.

More than a year earlier, when Clare dumped Anthony Daly's Dublin side out of the championship in Ennis, it had been hard to distinguish Morey from his contemporaries also on the field that night, Kelly and Colm Galvin.

Aaron Cunningham was there too. A year earlier they had delivered a second Munster minor title in successive years. Their graduation was quick.

Morey started midfield that night, but for the Limerick game seven days later he was corner-back. For the U-21s this season, half-back was his regular posting.

An arm injury prior to the start of the championship set him back a few weeks and he has scrambled hard ever since to get his footing back on the carousel.

Like the others, he is a supreme talent, just one of many who can ensure next season that the comfort zone which can exist for All-Ireland champions does not develop in the Banner County. Already the names of young hurlers who can propagate more growth for the revolution are tripping off the tongues of Clare people.

Cunningham also featured for the seniors in his first year out of minor, which is quite an achievement in any county.

Peter Duggan, U-21 free-taker Cathal O'Connell, Cathal McInerney, U-21 captain Paul Flanagan and Sean Collins – slightly older but also burdened by injury for much of the season – all give rise to the belief that any dip next year can be seized upon by them.

The choice for Davy Fitzgerald and his group looks like it is endless. John Conlon captured the sense of what the rising tide will bring after Saturday's victory, and of the absence of any fear in the Clare camp in terms of what they can achieve.

ABILITIES

"I think everyone wants to be part of this panel now because it is going places. A big thing in Clare was that when we first started out we might have been a bit frightened, but lads are getting it in their heads now that they can believe in their abilities," he said.

"People say we should fear these Cork jerseys, fear these Tipperary and Kilkenny jerseys, but we have come on a run now, we are All-Ireland champions and why should we fear anyone? It is about going out, responding, cherishing this and driving on for the next few years."

But for all the talent, there had to be a plan, an application of style to maximise the obvious skill.

Fitzgerald was adamant after Saturday's victory that the genesis for the way the Banner play was down to him and his team, a theme he turned to in the winning hotel on Sunday morning.

His selector Louis Mulqueen has also franked his manager's version of events. "He (Fitzgerald) brought in his revolution of hurling, which was moving the ball in a short passing game. Some people got frustrated with it at the start," said Mulqueen.

"I bought into it because it was an intelligent way of playing. It wasn't over-elaborating it but using the ball to our advantage. We hadn't got a lot of big, physical 6'4" fellas so it was about keeping possession and giving it in at the right time. In fairness, with Davy's training, it took a while to perfect.

"When we started to perfect it, and particularly in the last six months, it clicked a lot better.

"Players were playing their own brand of hurling, releasing the ball when it needed to go in and keeping it when we needed to. When you give away possession to a team like Cork you're hammered, so keeping possession and giving it in at the right time was vital. So on Saturday the ball went in at the right time to Shane O'Donnell. It went into Conor McGrath, and that was Davy's pattern of play. That is a Clare revolution for the golden era."

You wonder what the Kilkenny manager Brian Cody makes of it all – the declaration from the GAA president Liam O'Neill that it had been the game of the millennium, the idea that Clare have taken hurling to a new level with the precision element to their passing, that future battles will be fought on the ground and not in the skies.

That is the most intriguing element to 2014. A young Clare team stole a march and reached the summit without encountering either of the game's two superpowers of recent years.

They surely won't have as safe a passage next year and that's why Fitzgerald is already flagging how "tough" it may well be. Three years ago, when Tipperary added the All-Ireland U-21 title to their senior crown six days later, the proclamation of a new future was much too premature.

Some of their stars that night in Thurles had already made the breakthrough. They didn't handle success well and are still awaiting their next All-Ireland title.

There are obvious pitfalls for Clare. But somehow the depth and grounding of their talent looks much greater.

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