Friday 23 February 2018

'The rumours would fly if you were out that you were drinking even if you weren't' - Clare father-and-son All-Ireland winners on changing times

Jim and David McInerney give their verdict on the changing face of hurling and the Banner’s chances tomorrow

Clare hurler David McInerney and his dad Jim on their farm in Tulla, Co Clare. Photo: Press 22
Clare hurler David McInerney and his dad Jim on their farm in Tulla, Co Clare. Photo: Press 22
Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

On a summer's evening in Kilkishen, Co Clare not much is happening. A few people are gathered outside the hurling pitch after training, the shops are closed and the village is very quiet. Some tractors purr in the distance as farmers finish off their day's work.

Just outside the village is the home of Jim McInerney, his wife Trish and their son David. A modernised farmhouse it has all the joy of the welcoming atmosphere that is associated with rural Ireland. The back door is the way in and the kitchen is the heart of the house. There is tea and cake on offer but a salad for Clare's current full-back.

The McInerneys are strong men, naturally fit and fiercely determined. Years of work on the farm provided conditioning that only a lifetime of gym work could match. Kilkishen may be the nearest village but Tulla is their club.

Both men are in possession of Celtic Cross medals. David's from four years ago, Jim's dating back to 1995. The Munster final is closing in but there are no walls up in the McInerney house.

They recall how the night before Clare played Limerick in the Munster Championship they strolled in towards the house and David was looking at videos on his phone. He called his dad over to show him one that had just popped up. It was Clare against Limerick in the first round of the 1986 championship and Jim was in action on the small screen.

They leaned over the pick-up truck in the yard, and watched the match unfold. Of course a discussion ensued. The game itself was analysed and how hurling has evolved was teased out. The two men were central figures on successful teams in different eras; there was no shortage of opinions.

Marie Crowe: David, what were your thoughts on that game 31 years ago?

David McInerney: I couldn't believe how slow it was. If you were in defence you just lumped the ball to the other side of the field. There was no such thing as passing. If you were a back, it was win it and drive it; if you were a forward it was try to score. The ball stayed in play a lot longer back then; there would have been a rally for around a minute. In our match you could have a wide, point or a sideline in maybe 30 or 40 seconds.

Jim McInerney: I would have been conscious that I'd try to play to somebody but it wasn't the priority. You just cleared your lines really. The way the game has gone there are lots more scores nowadays. When you go back to the 1995 All-Ireland it was low-scoring, 1-13 to 2-8. Teams would run it up in 35 minutes now. Different things influenced it. The way backs were able to tackle and harass guys in the '90s is definitely a factor, if you did that now you would be sent off for two yellows.

D McI: There are better quality sliotars too and pitches are like carpets now. I think skill level has come up a small bit that's my opinion. All six forwards are now lightning fast and very skilful, you could have been a big strong man back in the 1990s and be very effective.

MC: Do you like the game today?

D McI: Dad likes it when it is 15 on 15.

J McI: Yeah, that's true. I like the way Cork are hurling at the moment, going at it hammer and tongs. It's fantastic to watch. They are playing 15 on 15, they have no fear. They don't care if they concede. They conceded 1-26 against Tipperary and there wasn't a word about it. It reminds me of 2013 All-Ireland finals, they were fantastic games. I felt watching Cork against Waterford that they played a very similar style to Kilkenny. Their half-forward line came out to midfield and put huge pressure on the Waterford half-backs and midfield so Waterford couldn't get the ball into their forwards. They are going to be a massive challenge but it will be a great spectacle.

MC: What are your thoughts on the sweeper?

J McI: I'm not a fan of the sweeper because you are automatically conceding that you are not going to score goals and to me by playing a sweeper you are admitting that you are afraid of the opposition forwards. And that you are compensating for a frailty you see in your backs. There are times when you would use a sweeper but you are not going to be able to beat a very good team if you play a sweeper system because you won't be able to out score them.

D McI: As players we prefer playing games 15 on 15 but I can see the need for a sweeper if a team is considerably weaker than another team. In club games you sometimes you see that it's needed, if you know that their backs aren't going to be able to handle their forwards it can work. I think in inter-county I'd love to see every game 15 on 15. It's very enjoyable to watch and play in, much nicer to play in.

MC: What's it like from your perspective as a full-back to play with a sweeper?

D McI: Obviously your space is a lot smaller to deal with. It functions as an aid to help you manage a forward but at times it can be confusing. A ball could land in the middle of all three and you don't know who's going for it. I prefer when there's no sweeper. Because I find I can read space easier when it's just you and your man.

MC: Jim, you are seeing the commitment levels first hand living with David, is it too much?

J McI: It's phenomenal. It dictates your life more than it used to. When I was playing a great social scene went with it, you trained hard played your games and you had a great night out after the game. Nowadays that doesn't happen. I see David and he doesn't go anywhere. They'd be so wrecked tired from what they would be doing training-wise they aren't able. They are amateurs training as professionals.

MC: Is he missing out in life?

J McI: I don't know. I won't say that either. I mean there are a lot of pluses but it's not for everybody. I can understand why guys would walk away from it because it's a huge commitment. They have been successful and they have won a lot at a young age. But if they hadn't won at this stage in their careers I would find it very hard to see them all sticking with it. Success makes it worth it.

D McI: People say why don't you go out and not drink. When you go out then people are just talking to you about hurling. And also you are getting to bed late and that affects the body the next morning, you are sluggish and tired and you could cost yourself a place on the team. So basically from January 1 until you are knocked out you are a saint and then you try and make up for it after that.

J McI: Actually now that I recall in 1995 we probably went out the nights of the games but we weren't out in between them, lads were committed to not going out. But that time unlike now if you went out and drank 7-Up or water, you wouldn't have guys burning you. Nowadays they are so well known people feel they have to talk hurling with them when they see them.

D McI: The rumours would fly if you were out too that you were drinking even if you weren't.

MC: Everything is so scientific now it's almost a lifestyle choice?

J McI: Sports science was creeping in back in my day. In the '90s I remember doing a fitness test in the University of Limerick. We were training there and a girl doing a course asked the Clare set-up to send in players to have a fitness test done. I was tested beside Philip Danaher and Mick Galwey, they were part of the Munster set-up at the time. She monitored our breathing and I remember she tested our agility; we had to touch a spot on the ground and on the wall. It was very interesting.

D McI: Tactics and video analysis are another thing like sport science that have became a huge part of the game now. We do a huge amount of video analysis, every team does. Sometimes it's good to show a personal flaw but sometimes when you are doing team analysis you can just confuse lads. I think there is a need for it in GAA. It's good if you can get it all 30 lads to buy into it.

J McI: In the 1980s Martin McKeogh would have coached the Clare senior team that got to the Munster final in 1986. A great hurler in his day. He was ahead of his time with his methods and after training one night he brought us to the Queen's Hotel and put on the video for us. Aidan Tuttle was commentating, he was a really well-known local commentator and he was hilarious.

After ten minutes Martin had to turn down the volume, no one was watching the match just listening and laughing. But I remember I had my own idea of how the game panned out around me but when I saw it on the TV after it was a total different game. He was trying to point out different plays to us, things that had gone wrong and things that had went good. If he had said it in Cusack Park you would have a different idea of how things went. It was very beneficial.

MC: David, do you feel pressure being the son of an All-Ireland winner?

D McI: I never feel pressure playing hurling. I used to when I was younger and I'd get worked up about it but I became a more laid-back character when I got older. I was a very competitive kid, I hated losing. I love playing on the big occasions, the bigger the crowd the more I enjoy it. I enjoy training more when the big match is coming. And the better the player is the more I enjoy the challenge of marking them.

J McI: I wasn't able to deal with the big occasions as well as David. I got very nervous and then you were depending on everything going right for you. If it didn't your game would fall apart. It's a massive trait to be able to deal with that pressure. I wish it was something I could have dealt with.

MC: Do you get nervous watching him?

J McI: I don't get nervous watching him, I really enjoy watching him. Some people can't watch their kids play or they would get too uptight. I think I was probably nervous for the replay of the All-Ireland in 2013. I felt they should have won it the first day and were lucky to draw at the finish and that was in my head. I was thinking, 'What are they going to have to do to beat Cork.' I enjoy watching them and I hope they play well and to their potential.

MC: So you don't think they have been playing to their potential?

J McI: They have not come anywhere near what they are capable of and there are different reasons for it. I think a lot of the players would like to be playing 15 on 15. That's the type of players they are, hurling is instinctive and you can't pre-program that, no two games are the same. You have to take the game as it comes and react. Then the more you do that the better you get. We have phenomenal players but they have to get into their flow and get hurling, they haven't come close to that.

MC: David, why do ye think ye haven't reached your potential?

D McI: I think it's down to the mindset of the players, even from a personal point of view you are more well-known and more well-covered and whether you like it or not you are probably think you are better than you are. We definitely were training as hard as 2013 in the following three years but I think was our mindset wasn't right, we expected to win without having to earn it.

Irish Independent

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