Saturday 24 February 2018

Anthony Daly: Clare brought an Uzi with them and emptied the clip

Shane O'Donnell, Clare, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with team-mate Padraic Collins, left
Shane O'Donnell, Clare, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with team-mate Padraic Collins, left

Anthony Daly

Someone told me this was Roy of the Rovers stuff – but that fella was in the ha'penny place compared to Shane O'Donnell.

You're hoping for another epic, but could anyone have foreseen this? Nobody was writing his script on Saturday night. He composed his own words.

When hurling takes off like that, nothing can compare. Not a Cheltenham Gold Cup, a World Cup final, nothing else. Sometimes it just becomes great, unscripted magic.

That's O'Donnell's forte – goalscoring. I remember him getting two for the Eire Og minors against Clarecastle last year. He just has that knack.

What's that old saying about bringing a knife to a gun fight? We knew Cork would bring their big guns and 3-16 is some score.

It's just that Clare brought a Uzi with them and emptied the clip.

Still and all, it was a huge call from Davy Fitz. Fortune favours the brave and it was a really courageous call.

To get 3-3 and for Darach Honan, the guy he's replaced, to come on and get his own goal then? Talk about nailing it with a decision from the sideline.

But there have been brave calls all year – from playing the sweeper to not playing it. We heard Tony Kelly on Saturday night saying that from the drawn game in Wexford, they just knew they'd win the All-Ireland.

BELIEF

This team knew that whatever they tried would work. I texted Davy on Wednesday just to wish him luck. His reply was simple – "We'll do it." That belief coursed through the team.

Even when Cork drew level in that third quarter, Clare fellas around me were getting nervy. Clare looked nervy themselves, a bit like how Cork started the game.

But I knew if they hung in there, they'd have another spell. In fairness, John Conlon stood up, scoring a huge point and then winning a free as they pushed ahead again.

You just felt Cork had given everything to come back from eight points down to level it. Now it was Clare's if they could drive on and wasn't Conor McGrath's goal a fitting one to win an All-Ireland?

It's funny, but after all the talk the last day about Clare not getting goals to hammer home their superiority, this time they got the goals, but still found it difficult to pull away.

We were a bit jittery in the full-back line and I flagged the vulnerability under the high ball here on Saturday. Moving Pa Cronin in worked as a tactic, he's a big unit and hard to shift.

Conor Ryan and Podge Collins weren't as effective this time for Clare, whereas guys like Lorcan McLoughlin and Stephen McDonnell, who did well on Tony Kelly, really stepped it up for Cork.

But when Clare were treading water, Brendan Bugler was just immense and he came up with the crucial plays.

I was lucky to captain leaders like Baker, Lohan, Lynch and McMahon. Clare are blessed to have leaders like that in a team led brilliantly by Pat Donnellan. Bugler has symbolised that defiance all year.

BORN

And then you have Davy Fitz. He was born to be a coach. He's done it all over the shop, from Ennistymon in north Clare, real football territory, when he brought them a junior county championship.

Then Confey in Kildare and those Fitzgibbon titles for LIT, neither of which had a great tradition in hurling.

He's a fanatic, he lives for this. I remember having a pint in Clarecastle after Dublin drew with Kilkenny and there was a lot of people being critical of his style of play then.

He stuck to his guns though and I'm delighted for him. He believed. I'm very proud of him.

What next? That's the challenge. Can we harness all this? Sometimes we can be a bit nice in Clare, we like our music and the celebration of victories.

That's the challenge for Davy now and no better man. He has a great team around him and the players are hungry. Come January, it will be easy to motivate them.

But Tipp will be looking on, knowing that they never met this summer. You saw Mr Cody at the end there, his team will be back. My Dublin team will have a say.

And you remember Jack Guiney's goal for Wexford. For all the stick Liam Dunne got, his men drew with the Leinster champions and the All-Ireland champions.

It's been some summer. Fantastic for hurling. Now the sun is setting, but the magical feeling is still there.

There'd be a tear in your eye. My job is with Dublin. But it feels nice to be a Clare man this morning.

Irish Independent

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