Thursday 24 January 2019

Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin warns Clare about redeploying sweeper in replay

Clare sweeper Colm Galvin in action against Conor Whelan, right, and Conor Cooney of Galway at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Clare sweeper Colm Galvin in action against Conor Whelan, right, and Conor Cooney of Galway at Croke Park on Saturday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The 'element of surprise' from Clare's deployment of a sweeper midway through the first half of Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final that finished level after extra-time has passed and that makes a similar tactic risky for the replay, former Banner manager Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin has warned.

Two-time All-Ireland-winning forward O'Loughlin, who managed Clare in 2010 and 2011 prior to Davy Fitzgerald taking over, feels that opponents Galway will have reset sufficiently in the eight days between games to be better prepared to deal with any such tactic the second time around.

Clare's distaste for the use of a sweeper was quite evident in the last couple of years of Fitzgerald's reign, despite their league success in 2016, and there was general approval that they have since moved away from it.


However, there was a certain irony in switching Colm Galvin back as a protective screen in front of a struggling full-back line that it became their redeeming feature.

"Clare were forced into deploying a sweeper and it actually worked out perfectly having to do that," said O'Loughlin.

"It looked as if it was going to be a complete annihilation with the way Galway were playing, they looked so sharp. Clare had to deploy someone back. It probably was the making of them.

"They were haemorrhaging so much that if they didn't do something like that, it would have gone completely away from them, we'd have got a very heavy beating. They had no other choice."

However, O'Loughlin insists that it doesn't mean they should revert to the practice on Sunday.

"It worked on this occasion but if you started that next Sunday and you played the extra man back, Galway have had a week to think this out and they're very good at it themselves," O'Loughlin argued.

"I've seen them previously where they drop back (Aidan) Harte back and he becomes the sweeper and they drop whoever back into the half-back line.

"We just caught them in the middle of the game and they hadn't time really to get around it.

"They have a week now and I'm not too sure will Clare be going down that way again. We're not playing that type of game but we were forced," he added.

O'Loughlin felt Galvin was Clare's man of the match because of the way he adapted, his distribution and his all-round energy.

He said of the Clonlara man: "His energy levels were the best I've seen them in a long time. He mopped up everything. He was tremendous.

"He even popped up there at one stage in the second half, took a pass from Tony Kelly and scored a point. He was really tuned in.

"It will be interesting how they line out because certainly, when Tony Kelly became the other midfielder, he came into the game a lot more too. That's his real strength, picking up that ball anywhere between our own half-back line and our own half-forward line and running at defences."

A return to Thurles, where Clare beat Tipperary for the first time in 90 years but lost a second successive Munster final to Cork, won't discommode the Banner but it wouldn't have been their preference, O'Loughlin suggested.

"If the players and the management had a choice on it, it would be back to Croke Park because they really revel in it, they play their best hurling there. Now you wouldn't have thought that after 15 minutes on Saturday.

"But they grew into the game. No doubt it suits Clare, they are an athletic team, full of energy and Croke Park suits them.

"Thurles is every bit as wide and big so it shouldn't be an issue but, for some reason, we don't seem to get the same results as we do in the likes of Croke Park. There is a massive opportunity on Sunday to put that right."

O'Loughlin got a sense on Saturday that the toll of games through July may be having a deeper effect on Galway than Clare.

"Galway looked a little tired to me at the end of it and I just thought maybe those couple of hard games against Kilkenny are taking their toll," he said.

O'Loughlin has been taken by the industry and athleticism of the Clare players, even when they aren't going well, especially John Conlon, who is having "the season of his life".

"It was a fantastic tussle between himself and Daithí Burke," he said.

"It was really only when the game opened up that he was able to get the space but when he got that he got four tremendous points at a vital stage."

Irish Independent

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