Sunday 25 February 2018

Hayes calls on Tribe to devise new Clare plan

Cyril Donnellan and Patrick O’Connor will battle it out once again in Thurles on Sunday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Cyril Donnellan and Patrick O’Connor will battle it out once again in Thurles on Sunday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Operation Surprise - that's the formula Galway should deploy against Clare if they are to save their season in Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Clare in Thurles.

Former Galway manager and captain Conor Hayes believes that as well as bringing relentless energy for the full 70 minutes, Galway must present Clare with puzzles they are not expecting.

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"There's plenty of talk about how Galway will cope with Clare's approach but there's hardly a word about how Clare will react to what Galway throw at them.

"Galway can't allow it to become a question of whether they deal with Clare's game. They've got to set their own agenda and make Clare worry about them," he said.


To that end, he believes it would be worthwhile for Galway manager Micheál Donoghue and his fellow strategists to study how Tipperary approached the Munster final against Waterford.

"The talk was about how Tipp would deal with the Waterford set-up but, in fairness to Michael Ryan, he turned it around and made it about how Waterford coped with them.

"Tipp made some adjustments but they also made sure the basics were solid, especially when it came to keeping their shape. They kept 'Bonner' Maher and Seamus Callanan down the middle of the attack, with others working off them.

"Maher ran hard and strong at the Waterford defence every chance he got. That caused big problems for Waterford. It doesn't matter how good your defensive system is, it will struggle against a player who puts the head down and goes.

"And when Tipp won the ball further out, they looked up and checked where Callanan was and then delivered a ball he had a good chance of getting. He had to be playing well to manage it against the Waterford defensive set-up but he was on his game, which is what you need from big players on big days.

"It was simple, direct, high-energy stuff but very well-executed. That's the type of game Galway should play against Clare," said Hayes.

Their latest setback against Kilkenny in the Leinster final has, inevitably, put Galway back under intense scrutiny, especially since the manner of the defeat was so similar to last year's All-Ireland final, when Galway led at half-time before being reined in and overtaken.

"You would wonder if there's a psychological issue there with Kilkenny now. What I found hard to understand the last day was why Galway couldn't bring the same level of ferocity to their play after half-time.

"You'll hear plenty about how Brian Cody sorted everything out for Kilkenny at half-time but it's not that simple. Kilkenny didn't have to do anything special in the second half to win because, for whatever reason, Galway failed to bring anything like the same energy to their game.

"If they did and were still beaten, fair enough but they don't seem to be able to keep the intensity going for a full 70 minutes. Why is that happening? They are as fit as any team in the country; they have plenty of big men and also have lots of skills so where's the problem?

"That's the frustrating thing for Galway people. I'm sure it's frustrating for the players and management too but they are the only ones who can sort it out," said Hayes.

The 1987-'88 All-Ireland-winning captain and manager in 2003-2006 would like to see three or four of the younger Galway brigade starting on Sunday.


"Give them their heads. These lads know the Clare boys well from underage and college hurling. They're fresh and eager so let them have a go. I would have liked to see a few of them brought in during the second half of the Leinster final.

"Galway were losing anyway so you might as well give young lads a chance and see how it works. At the very least, it gives them experience for another day," he said.

Galway have a poor record in All-Ireland quarter-finals, losing six in a row between 2006 and 2013 before beating Cork last year.

And having won only once (v Cork in the opening round of the league in mid-February) against top-eight opposition so far this year, there are fears in Galway that this season may fizzle out in a disappointing finish.

That has been a common experience in Galway in seasons after they lost All-Ireland finals (1994-2002-'06-'13) and, so far this year, the signs have again been ominous. However, Hayes believes they can still rescue this campaign if they bring a high-octane, high intensity approach to their game.

"The Kilkenny game is behind them. Forget about it and move on - they still have a big chance to make something happen. But that's the key... they have to make it happen.

"Reacting to Clare won't be good enough. But then it's not as if Galway aren't as good as Clare and have to concentrate solely on upsetting their game.

"Galway are as good as any of the others who are chasing Kilkenny and should be as good as Kilkenny too. But there's no point being as good unless you prove it. Galway haven't done that so far and that's the frustrating thing. Next Sunday would be a very good time to start getting in right," said Hayes.

Irish Independent

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