Saturday 20 January 2018

Reidy's game of inches helps him to thrive in the midfield jungle

David Reidy has grown into his new role as a midfielder. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
David Reidy has grown into his new role as a midfielder. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In the forest of bodies and swinging hurls that the middle third of so many inter-county hurling matches is becoming, it is, quite literally, a game of inches.

When Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald recast the county's exciting young forward David Reidy into a midfielder earlier this season, Reidy made a small but fundamental change to adapt to his new circumstances.

As a forward, his 33-inch hurl was always his lethal weapon of choice, helping him to squeeze goals like that in the early stages of their All-Ireland U-21 win over Wexford in 2014.

But more and more modern midfield demands a shorter, sharper swing plane. Show too much and you're caught. Dead in the water. So Reidy dropped an inch to make a difference, the subtle change to a 32-inch stick closing the door ever so slight on the hunters.

In the congestion every little bit helps.

As the season has progressed and Reidy acclimatises to his new role, he has grown into it. His graph from the opening minute of the drawn game to the moment that Tony Kelly struck that magnificent winner in Thurles last month over 160 minutes later rose steadily.

By the second half of the replay he had emerged, with Kelly and Waterford's Austin Gleeson, as a key influencer in that zone. By then his more senior partner Colm Galvin had been replaced for the second successive afternoon.

The propensity to go with snappier, shorter, more mobile hurlers to negotiate the increasing traffic convinced Fitzgerald to throw Reidy in at the deep end and he's been delighted with the results.

"If you asked me honestly in what I've seen, and I've gone to a lot of matches I think he's been probably one of the best midfielders I've seen in the National League.

"He never played there for his club. Something came into my head last year; he can go three-quarter pace all the time. Being courageous, being able to read breaks, being able to give good ball, he has everything. That guy could have been able to play soccer at top level no problem, I think he went to England for trials. Anything he puts his mind to he's able to do it."

Above all, though, Fitzgerald loves the aggression in him, the spark. He recalls a training ground incident last year that reflected that unwillingness to take a step back.

"It was one of the big things I liked about him. I won't say what defender it was but it was one of the bigger guys.

"He hit this defender last year at training and your man lost the plot and told him he'd kill him. The next minute Reidy hit him another shot!" Fitzgerald laughed.

Reidy wasn't part of the 2013 All-Ireland-winning squads but his progress with the U-21s in 2014 prompted inclusion. At LIT Fitzgerald had a front-row view.

He finds it difficult to reconcile with the public perception of two distinctly different league finals with Waterford.

"To be honest, I didn't find that. It (replay) felt like it was even more enclosed. I know people said it was open but playing the game it was a close, tight battle and playing the game it is going to be the same the next day, a tight intense battle.

"We have to come up with things to try and counteract it but it's very difficult - there is not much space there at all. They close the pitch very well with their positioning."

Reidy exemplifies the maturity that Fitzgerald senses these Clare players are now bringing to their game that he feels promises a stable future.

They are now, the manager feels, more capable of coping with success.

"I've said this from day one, and I've said this in interviews, to cope with success at 20 years of age is massive. Look at Tipperary when they won in 2010, everyone said they were going to dominate for years and years. To cope with success is tough. How do Kilkenny do it year after year? I think naturally if you look at their team and the age profile of their team, they wouldn't have too many under 23 years of age. We probably had 80pc of our team under that, Look at our age group and let's be realistic about this - 19, 20, 21.

"They are years when you get attention and get whatever and you have to let them live their lives or whatever. I think Clare over the next few years will be very competitive. I think that those lads, if they mind themselves, if they stay level-headed, if they stay grounded.

"Coping with winning an All-Ireland so young is not the easiest thing under the sun, but I am extremely proud of how we've stayed together. Has it been tough in the last year or two?

"Oh, there are things that would have hurt you in your heart that you know isn't true, but you only make it worse if you go out talking about it. Maybe if it was me two or three years ago, the first thing I would have done is... Pow! And gone like that (makes striking action).

"But you just have to take it. Does it hurt you a bit? It does, it does hurt a small bit and you are saying, 'I'm being portrayed in a way that doesn't feel right,' but there's no point. Once the inner circle and the family are okay, which I think you could say it was, you are fine."

Irish Independent

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