Friday 19 January 2018

Davy Fitzgerald claims having more teams in Division 1A is a 'no-brainer'

Clare 1-19 Limerick 0-18

Clare's Conor McGrath attempts to get away from Richie English of Limerick during their Allianz NHL Division 1B clash in Cusack Park Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Clare's Conor McGrath attempts to get away from Richie English of Limerick during their Allianz NHL Division 1B clash in Cusack Park Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Clare's Shane O'Donnell battles with Limerick's Richie English for control of the sliotar Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Clare's Patrick O'Connor in action against Limerick's Declan Hannon Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Clare have hit their initial target for 2016, securing promotion to Division 1A at the first attempt, but according to Davy Fitzgerald neither they nor Limerick should be forced into the situation in which they found themselves yesterday.

Both were already guaranteed a place in the League quarter-finals but only one of them could squeeze into the escape chute from 1B.

Clare achieved it more easily that the scoreline suggests but Fitzgerald remains convinced that the system is seriously flawed.

"The whole structure should be changed. I don't believe ourselves and Limerick should be down in 1B. I would love to see more teams in 1A.

"It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I would encourage the GAA to look at it again. Let's have more teams up there," he said.

Limerick would probably agree after once against missing out on promotion on a day when self-inflicted damage was a contributory factor.

Quite how much is debatable but having to play with 14 men for all of the second half greatly added to an already heavy load.

Wing-forward Barry Nash was sent off by referee Fergal Horgan on a second yellow card just before half-time at a time when Limerick were just two points behind.

Nash had picked up his first card in the fifth minute, and when he over-stepped the mark with a challenge on Colm Galvin, his day was over.

Limerick matched Clare (0-9 each in the second half) so it will remain a matter of sad conjecture for Limerick as to how the game might have gone if they weren't short-handed.


Fitzgerald insisted Clare's numerical advantage was not significant, suggesting that Clare were the better team prior to Nash's departure.

"We were well in control," said Fitzgerald.

That might have been a slight exaggeration but Clare were certainly more efficient on the basics, especially in the opening 23 minutes when they opened up a five-point lead, 1-6 to 0-4.

The goal came after just 30 seconds when John Conlon squeezed through off a delivery by Galvin and forced the ball to the Limerick net.

TJ Ryan dubbed it a 'disgrace', claiming - with justification it must be said - that Conlon over-carried. "He took 15 steps," said Ryan.

His sense of grievance was understandable but since Limerick had 69 minutes to work on that early setback, the goal can't be classed as a tie-breaker.

Besides, a spurt between the 24th and 30th minutes, during which Limerick outscored Clare by 0-5 to 0-1, left them trailing by a single point and hurling with real momentum

Midfielder Paul Browne, who scored 0-4 from play, was very much to the fore in the more impressive parts of Limerick's game and with Declan Hannon pointing frees at regular intervals, Clare's early surge looked as if it might not be sustained.

However, Nash's dismissal was followed by two pointed frees by Barry Duggan, which complemented an excellent solo effort from David McInerney, and left Clare ahead by 1-10 to 0-9 at the interval.

They stretched their advantage to seven points early in the second half and were six clear on the hour mark. Limerick cut it back to four before two pointed frees by Cathal O'Connell relaxed Clare supporters in the 8,847 crowd.

Limerick pulled two points back before the end but never looked like getting in for the goal they needed to really put it up to Clare.

It's all very frustrating for Limerick, who have once again missed the promotion boat, whereas Clare, who were unlucky to be relegated last year, are now in League bonus territory.

They won't be happy with aspects of their game, not least a wides tally of 19, but there were times when they looked like the class of 2013 that went on to win the All-Ireland title.

"We did what we had to do today. I was happy with the tackling and the blocking. They tried to do the right things all the time," said Fitzgerald.

Presumably, that should have included exploiting the extra man to a greater extent in the second half but, publicly at least, Fitzgerald was in forgiving mood.

"Limerick are fighters - they never give in easily. They keep battling and mark my words, I wouldn't like to be playing them in the Championship," he said.

The Clare management can be pleased with much of yesterday's performance, led by the impressive form shown by Conlon, McInerney, Galvin and Conor McGrath.

They scored 1-9 between them from open play, while Bobby Duggan added 0-6 from frees while also being off-target on five occasions from placed balls and open play.

Fitzgerald didn't entertain Ryan's complaints over Clare's goal.

"I could count 20 other examples of too many steps being taken. I honestly think that anyone who was here today would know that Clare were the better team," he said.

Ryan was very disappointed to have missed out on promotion again, especially since Limerick couldn't fully test their case on its merits after Nash's departure.

"The sending-off had an effect on the game. We were chasing our tails all through the second half, the lads worked very hard but we just couldn't get it back," he said.

Despite the promotion setback, Limerick remain in the League race, starting with a quarter-final against Dublin.

"It's in two weeks so we have a bit of time to focus on it. Dublin. . . we owe them," said Ryan.

Clare face an equally daunting challenge against Tipperary but having reached the first staging post for the season, Fitzgerald was content to savour the moment.

"I'm just going to enjoy today and think of Tipperary after that. We want to perform well here in our own house in Ennis and we did that," he said.

Scorers - Clare: B Duggan 0-6 (6fs), C McGrath 0-5, J Conlon 1-1, C Galvin, C O'Connell (2fs) 0-2 each, C Dillon, D McInerney, D Reidy 0-1 each. Limerick: D Hannon 0-9 (8fs), P Browne 0-4, G Mulcahy, D Byrnes (f), J Ryan, D O'Donovan, D Reidy 0-1 each.

Clare - P Kelly 7; O O'Brien7 , C Dillon 7, P Flanagan 7; B Bugler 7, D McInerney 8, P O'Connor 7; D Reidy 7, C Ryan 7; J Conlon 8, B Duggan 7, C Galvin 7; A Cunningham 6, S O'Donnell 6, C McGrath 8. Subs: D Honan 7 for Cunningham (52), C O'Connell 7 for Duggan (60) P Collins for McGrath (69), C Cleary for Flanagan (69).

Limerick - N Quaid 7; T Condon 7, R McCarthy 7, R English 6; D Morrissey 5, D Byrnes 7,S Hickey 7; J Fitzgibbon 6, P Browne 8; B Nash 5, G O'Mahony 5, C Lynch 6; G Mulcahy 6, D Hannon 7, T Morrissey 5. Subs: J Ryan 5 for O'Mahony (ht), P O'Brien 6 for D Morrissey (ht), D Reidy 6 for T Morrissey (45), D O'Donovan for Ryan (56), D Fitzgerald for Fitzgibbon (67).

Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary)

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