Friday 23 March 2018

Colm Keys: Back to drawing board for All-Ireland action replay

Both Barry-Murphy and Fitzgerald must do their 'homework' to deliver knockout blow

Pa Cronin scores Cork's third goal but needs to get closer to the action
Pa Cronin scores Cork's third goal but needs to get closer to the action
Darach Honan, Clare, and Shane O'Neill, Cork, are both shown a yellow card by referee Brian Gavin
Jimmy Barry-Murphy has challenged his players
Darach Honan, Clare, in action against Shane O'Neill, Cork - Clare will need to play one of their corner-forwards closer to their full-forward
Clare goalkeeper Patrick Kelly played a risky games at times
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Davy Fitzgerald brought their respective management teams back to the drawing board yesterday to digest the mechanics of an epic All-Ireland final.

Both have much to ponder, but it is Barry-Murphy who has arguably the greater need to address positional and personnel issues after so many of his men played within themselves on Sunday.

Already, it's time to look at the areas that both managers may potentially address in the weeks ahead.


The dominance of the Clare half-back line

Cork can point to the puck-out possession statistics and feel they didn't do as badly as it looked in real time.

From 56 in the game (the last wasn't contested as the final whistle blew) they gained possession from 26 on our count. What's more, of their own 34, most delivered by Anthony Nash into Brendan Bugler/Conor Ryan territory, they claimed possession off 18.

But add in clearances from Nash and others and the statistics for clean catches and breaks shoot up strongly in favour of that Bugler/Ryan/Pat O'Connor axis. If they are to keep pumping ball down on top of them, Cork need to get more competitive in that area.

New deployment for Brian Murphy

The conventional wisdom is that Tony Kelly is Clare's most dangerous attacking weapon and that Brian Murphy is best equipped to track him, as he did so successfully in the Munster semi-final.

On Sunday Kelly scored three points; it would have been four but for a late wide. But since that game in Munster, Podge Collins has emerged as perhaps an even greater threat.

In an orthodox corner-forward role, he scored three points, won four frees (three converted) and set up a further point for a most productive afternoon.

It wasn't until the 58th minute that either Conor O'Sullivan or Stephen McDonnell got a really meaningful challenge in on him. Would Murphy be better deployed on Collins at this stage, with a possible recall for Tom Kenny?

Releasing the pace in their forward line

Conor Lehane's goal underlined that when they find the right space to run lines, Cork can be deadly. Seamus Harnedy's catch and drive for the penalty award was a different variation of the same theme.

It was obvious too how the straight-line running Stephen Moylan and Cathal Naughton troubled Clare when they came on. Two of their three goals came from such runs. But how can they consistently find that space for Lehane and Luke O'Farrell to thrive in?

They need to try and isolate them more with their markers and gain an obvious advantage where they can take them on. It didn't happen enough on Sunday.

Getting their captain more involved

Barry-Murphy deserves credit for persisting with Pa Cronin and being rewarded with a goal when other managers might have taken him off much earlier.

Cronin has had his problems this summer and was strangely uncompetitive under the dropping ball. Cian McCarthy's brief involvement saw him win the first puck-out he contested.

There may be a case to push Cronin into the full-forward line given the quality of his goal, but his primary duties rest in the half-forward line, where he has to lead.

Support for the defender in possession

Clare were repeatedly able to swarm Cork defenders in possession by pushing up fast and in great numbers.

Stephen McDonnell and Christopher Joyce were among those forced to clear their lines under pressure as they found themselves isolated. It adds to the case for Kenny's inclusion, as he brings a certain composure in that regard.

Clare to sweep or not to sweep?

The calls for a return to the system that served them so well against Galway and Limerick will be loud, but it shouldn't be forgotten that for so much of Sunday's final this Clare team reached a new level.

There was an orthodox feel to how they set up man for man and while Pat Donnellan was not as prominent at midfield as he could have been, some of his neat touches further upfield created scores.

That said, they may seek to integrate use of an extra defender at times the next day to deal with certain situations and help to protect a lead.

Not getting a return from Darach Honan 

Honan  started well and scored the first point, but the blow he took from Shane O'Neill discommoded him. Would they have got a greater return out of him if it hadn't happened? Probably not.

O'Neill had his measure and for the third consecutive game Honan was taken off. The potential is there but Clare may need to play one of their corner-forwards closer to Honan to extract something from him.


In terms of numbers of scores, where there is no distinction between goals and points, only four teams in history have scored more than Clare did in an All-Ireland final.

Last year, Kilkenny's 3-22 in the replay matched Clare's 25 points on Sunday. It stresses their need for goals the next day as conditions may not be as suitable to their game in late September.

Honan and Collins had goal chances off breaks that fell for them, but Colin Ryan's effort, which was blocked by Conor O'Sullivan, was the only goal chance they really had. They need to be a little more daring the next day as 25 points is a target they are unlikely to reach.

Kelly playing a dangerous game

Pat Kelly had a fine game, producing crucial saves from Daniel Kearney and Nash in the first half, but he can be thankful to Brian Gavin for playing those extra 30-plus seconds to bail Clare out after being pressurised over the sideline by Luke O'Farrell just a minute earlier to give Cork a distinct advantage.

It mirrored a passage of play in the first half when Jamie Coughlan hooked him as he charged out, a turnover that led to a Pat Horgan free after David McInerney had overcarried. Davy Fitzgerald will be encouraging his 'keeper to clear his lines much quicker the next day.

Reassure themselves that not much has to change

The danger for Clare would be to over-analyse how they didn't win the All-Ireland title after leading the game for so long.

Sometimes they over-committed to the tackle in defence and it cost them for Cronin's goal, Nash's goal from a free after the foul on O'Farrell and the penalty for the foul on Harnedy.

Not every red shirt has to be met with blood and thunder. Simple chances for Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath and one free from Colin Ryan were also spurned.

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