Tuesday 12 December 2017

Anthony Daly: Banner have to restore sweeper system for replay

Anthony Daly believes Clare will have to restore their sweeper system
Anthony Daly believes Clare will have to restore their sweeper system

Anthony Daly

A chance missed for Clare to win only the county's fourth All-Ireland senior title? Not really. Not on the balance of play, especially over the last 10 minutes or so.

If you're going to concede three goals to a Cork team managed by Jimmy Barry-Murphy, you have to expect to be looking into the jaws of defeat. That Clare survived was due to their magnificent fighting spirit and their refusal to cave when it looked as if Cork were going to snatch victory at the death.

Having said that, overall I felt Davy's men were the better side and made most of the running, but we all know what Cork can do if they get half a chance to punish a team.

It may not have been a hurling classic, but for sheer excitement and drama, this final was full value for money.

Before the match I spoke about the 'unsung hero' that often pops up on these occasions, and for Clare that man was Domhnall O'Donovan, the corner-back who chose the most dramatic moment to score his first championship point.

What an equaliser and what a finish to the match. It just goes to show that hurling remains the greatest unscripted game of them all. I couldn't help but contrast the excitement and passion generated at Croke Park yesterday with the soccer international at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night. Anyone who bought tickets for the Aviva would be thinking they made the wrong choice if they watched this fantastic hurling final.


But at the end of it all, my overall reaction is relief that Clare will get another chance. I thought it was all over when Cork got that sideline ball just at the end.

All they had to do was kill the ball, but thankfully the referee allowed just enough time for O'Donovan to finish up as the hero of the hour.

Looking ahead, the first job for Clare is to play the U-21 final against Antrim next weekend and then there's a fortnight to be ready for the replay.

The U-21s on the senior panel now have to buckle down and do all they can to beat Antrim. We're not so well off for All-Irelands in Clare that we can afford to be complacent about an U-21 championship. After that, it will be all about planning for the rematch with Cork.

Once he reviews yesterday's game, I wouldn't be surprised if Davy brings back the sweeper system the next day. Clare showed massive desire to win the breaking ball all around the pitch, but when Cork got their attackers running at the defence in the second half, they looked very dangerous.

Against that, Clare showed more hunger and more desire to dive into the battles for possession with no heed for personal cost.

There were some great match-ups. John Conlon and William Egan are used to marking each other and they went at it hammer and tongs; Brian Murphy will be glad of a few extra weeks to get ready for the next outing against Tony Kelly; Conor Ryan and Seamus Harnedy was another good duel.

Darach Honan was well marshalled by Shane O'Neill, but he will learn from this game.

Colin Ryan did very well to keep his composure after missing a couple of frees, and then hit three points in a row. Podge Collins enhanced my view that he's a very strong candidate for Hurler of the Year.

The goalkeepers, Patrick Kelly and Anthony Nash, had a major influence at each end of the pitch, but I don't think there's a man alive who could have stopped Nash scoring that goal because he just hit it with savage power.

Both managers and their back-room teams will have much to ponder. If Clare show the same hunger and resilience, all they would need to add to their game would be a goal or two.

From a Cork point of view, they can look at the match and be encouraged that while they didn't give a great performance, they still almost won the game.

The question for them is: will they want it more than Clare will on the 28th of this month?

Because I have no doubt that Clare will be just as determined and just as fiercely competitive once again.

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