Monday 21 January 2019

Cyril Farrell: Banner boys have progressed quietly and are now right in the big-time mix

Clare's season turned on 20-second cameo - they can now build on that by booking Munster final date

Peter Duggan of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter Duggan of Clare. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

Small margins, big consequences. If the shot from Jake Morris had rattled the Clare net rather than the upright late in last Sunday's game, Tipperary's All-Ireland ambitions would have stayed alive until tomorrow at least.

In fact, they would almost certainly be alive after that too, even if Clare beat Limerick as the odds are that Cork will beat Waterford. Instead, the summer is stretching out long and lonely for Tipperary, leaving them with lots of time to reflect on a disappointing season.

Meanwhile, Clare are very much back in the game and looking forward to something they haven't experienced for decades - playing in Ennis for a place in the Munster final. Any wonder Cusack Park will be heaving?

Clare know that they were lucky to get a six-point turnaround in the space of 20 seconds last Sunday, when instead of falling seven points down after Morris shot for goal, they cut the margin to one with a swift counter-attack and Ian Galvin's goal.

Even if Morris' shot had gone wide, it might have been a different story. Tipperary would have had a chance to re-set, instead of being caught flat-footed as Clare swept downfield. It may well have been a defining swing in Clare's season. Up to last Sunday, most of the talk around Munster had been about Limerick's purposeful surge, Tipperary's loss of form, Waterford's awful luck and Cork's steady progress towards another final.

Clare seemed a bit of an after-thought. Well, they're not anymore. In fact, I think they will win tomorrow and book a Munster final rematch with Cork. Home advantage is always a plus but it's even more so in Clare's case as Cusack Park will suit their style more than Limerick. Mind you, if Clare are to win, they will be need to get to the pitch of the action quicker than last Sunday.

They won plenty possession in the first half but wasted an awful lot of it. Even the usually reliable Tony Kelly couldn't get his sights in for a time but he came good in the end.

It will be interesting to see how Limerick play him tomorrow. He's a long way from being your typical stay-at-home centre-forward, instead roaming far and wide.

Tipperary didn't man-mark him, opting to leave it up to whoever was in his vicinity to pick him up, but I would expect Limerick to pay him closer attention, maybe even allocating a 'shadow' to track him everywhere.

Significantly, the Clare bench made a big impact last Sunday, with Séadna Morey, Podge Collins and Ian Galvin all contributing handsomely.

Morey's runs out of defence put big pressure on Tipperary, Collins was back to his energetic best and Galvin popped up to score the crucial goal.

Add in Peter Duggan, who is developing into a real talent, John Conlon and Shane O'Donnell and you have a very potent attacking set-up. Conor McGrath hasn't been quite at his best but he's a proven performer and will come good again.

Clare lost to Cork in the first round but could have got two or three more goals so the scoring power is definitely there. Of course they need to make more of it as the season hots up.

Defensively, Clare are tightening up too so the upbeat mood in the county is understandable. It could be even more optimistic tomorrow evening.

* * * * *

So what will Derek McGrath do? All the indications are that he will leave the Waterford job after five seasons but I wonder could he have second thoughts. This year has to be written off. He opted to put all Waterford's eggs in the championship basket, only to have them smashed by the worst of bad luck.

It was always going to be hard to finish in Munster's top three but it became next to impossible for Waterford when a serious injury-bug struck.

There was nothing McGrath or his squad could do about that. The gods had written off Waterford's season - end of story. I hope McGrath doesn't make a quick announcement about stepping down. He should take his time let things settle and see how he feels then.

Waterford's early departure gives the entire camp, including McGrath,a chance to recharge the batteries in good time for next year. There should be no hasty decisions.

* * * * *

I travel around the country quite a lot and am struck by something that I find very disappointing. I see shiny big mowers cutting the grass on GAA pitches all the time, but I see very little games or training? Where have all the players gone?

To America in many cases but the majority who stay at home are left with little action at the height of summer.

I won't pretend to have the answer but we all know the problem exists. Ignoring it is not the solution.

Irish Independent

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