Thursday 17 October 2019

Cyril Farrell: 'Confidence and supply is key as Clare must trust instincts, let loose and rip up the script'

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A bloodied Tony Kelly after Clare’s defeat to Limerick last week. The Banner need to figure out a Plan B if they are to have any hope of staying in the Championship. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
A bloodied Tony Kelly after Clare’s defeat to Limerick last week. The Banner need to figure out a Plan B if they are to have any hope of staying in the Championship. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

I have always agreed with the view that there's only one bad ball in hurling - the one that doesn't come anywhere near you. You could have Christy Ring, Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning in your full-forward line, but without a good supply you might as well pick three one-legged monkeys and give them broken hurleys.

There are times nowadays when I think the basic principle about getting the ball into the danger zone has been lost and replaced by theoretical stuff that sounds good but often means nothing.

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Stats on possession, hooks, blocks etc are trotted out as if they were an updated version of the gospel when, in fact, they are no more than totting up numbers. If you want figures, go study accountancy and leave hurling to those who have an instinct for it.

Passing, hooking, blocking and a whole lot of other skills have always been part of hurling and just because nobody was counting them doesn't mean they weren't important.

Any coach worth his salt can read the game very quickly and doesn't have to be told by stats people at half-time that 'Player A' was on the ball 17 times, but only got six good passes away, or that he was blocked five times and gave six misdirected passes.

A good coach already knows if the trend is against his team, or particular players, and is working on fixing it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for creative thinking and tactical plans, but it's important to be flexible too and not remain a slave to systems.


If it ain't working, bin it. Try something else. It might not work, but so what? Plan A wasn't working either.

I think Clare are in that situation now. Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor know the game inside out and they understand exactly where they find themselves. From what I can see, one of the problems with Clare is over-rigidity.

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There's not enough instinct in their game, not enough speed in getting the ball forward and not enough risk-taking. The ball isn't being played into the full-forward line nearly quickly enough.

Precision through the lines, as utilised by Limerick, is fine when it works, but that's not happening for Clare. By the time they get into an attacking position, the opposition defenders are waiting for them, accompanied by lots of back-up.

If Clare are to give themselves a chance of saving their season, they need to be more adventurous tomorrow. Be bold, move the ball quickly and test the Cork defence, which still isn't entirely convincing.

Clare were way offline against Tipperary and Limerick, but there's a lot more to them than that. A year ago this weekend they beat Limerick by 11 points in Cusack Park and were unlucky against Galway in both the drawn and replayed All-Ireland semi-finals.

Granted, a lot of the players who were on their game then haven't done well in recent games, but that doesn't mean it can't come right. Look at the improvement Galway showed against Kilkenny last Sunday after less-than-convincing performances against Carlow and Wexford.

On the basis of what we've seen over the last few weeks it's hard to tip against Cork, but if Clare play with a bit more freedom and move the ball smartly they will give themselves a real chance.

If they are in a position to win in the closing stages, their supporters will be glued to radios to see what's happening in Thurles. A Limerick win or draw opens the door for Clare if they beat Cork, so there's plenty to play for.

Cork are right in contention after two wins, but there are still doubts about their defence. They conceded 2-17 against Waterford and with a little more precision from the Déise's finishers, it would have been considerably more.

I think Limerick will beat Tipperary because their need is that bit greater. Tipp will remain in the All-Ireland race - irrespective of tomorrow's results - and even if they lose they still have a good chance of reaching the Munster final.

Limerick would love to reach the final too and equally importantly they want to maintain momentum after having to rebuild it in the wake of their first-round loss to Cork. Tipperary have shown the best form in either Munster or Leinster, so Limerick will see this as an opportunity to remind Tipp that they are the reigning All-Ireland and league champions and have no intention of being deposed.

Credit to Liam Sheedy and the rest of his backroom team. They have rejuvenated what is essentially the same group of players as in recent years.

The difference is that they are playing with real freedom, which has helped their confidence enormously. This will be the ultimate clash of styles, with Limerick taking their possession-based game to Tipperary, whose quick use of the ball has been excellent so far this year.

It's difficult to know at this stage which of them will fare better in the All-Ireland stages but for now I'm backing Limerick to have the edge. This could be the first of three games between them so seizing the psychological edge is important.

And Leinster? I think it will be a Galway v Wexford final, with Kilkenny staying in the All-Ireland race as third-placed finishers, heading for the quarter-finals.

For that to happen, Galway and Wexford need to beat Dublin and Kilkenny respectively this evening.

It looks the most likely double to me.

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