Cyril Farrell: History will not dictate who emerges victorious from intriguing replay scrap
THE comparisons between this and last year's drawn All-Ireland hurling final started immediately and went like this: Cork are to Clare what Kilkenny were to Galway.
For those who support that line, the obvious conclusion is that Cork will win the replay, possibly even quite comfortably. That's based on the belief that when Kilkenny or Cork get a second chance, they win. Tradition and all that.
Really? Weren't Kilkenny beaten by Dublin in a replay last June? Didn't Waterford beat Cork in the 2010 Munster final replay?
Kilkenny's win over Galway in last year's replay was not down to history or tradition, but rather the simple fact that they played better. The same will apply this year.
So, as Davy Fitzgerald and Jimmy Barry-Murphy build up their sides for the replay, they will be concentrating on ways of ensuring that their teams deliver this day fortnight, rather than checking the wind for pointers from history.
Despite some criticism of the 20-day gap between the draw and replay, I believe that it's ideal.
This week is about coming down from last Sunday (although for many of the Clare squad, there was an U-21 final to prepare for); next week will be about tweaking and fine-tuning, based on the lessons of last Sunday and the last week will be about reinforcing the points in a calm, relaxed manner.
Here are a few areas the rival camps will be mulling over.
1 Their system worked. Most people expected them to use a sweeper, but instead they played straight up, which presented Cork with a problem on their puck-outs.
If Clare had played a sweeper, Anthony Nash would have gone short with his puck-outs to the extra Cork defender, but instead he was forced to hit long, which played into the hands (literally) of Clare's fiercely competitive half-back line.
It has been suggested that Clare should have dropped back a sweeper when they were four points up with 10 minutes left. I don't agree.
Trying to defend a lead after playing a certain way for over an hour is a bad idea. Take the Kerry footballers in the 2011 All-Ireland final.
They attempted it against Dublin in the final seven or eight minutes and got caught out.
2 Despite conceding three goals (clearly an area to work on), Clare still drew the game, having outnumbered Cork 25-19 on actual scores. Scoring 25 times shows how much momentum they generated.
3 They showed huge calmness, courage and maturity when Cork took the lead late on. Domhnall O'Donovan's point typified it.
1 They got a draw, despite rarely hurling with the expected fluency. Okay, so they might have won, but they know that, and overall, a draw was a very fair return on the day's investment. They will believe that even a small increase in all-round efficiency would make a massive difference.
2 They hung on in there in a game which seemed as if it might slip irretrievably away from them at different stages.
3 They ended their goal drought on a day they badly needed three-pointers to survive.
1 Conceding three goals will have greatly frustrated Davy Fitz. Conor Lehane's superb individual effort, which kick-started Cork's second-half revival certainly won't have made pretty viewing for the Clare defence.
He started in the No 12 position, veered towards No 11 central territory, then in the direction of No 10 country. After that, it was off towards No 13 landscape and, by the time he hit the ball, he was closing in on No 14 land. That's five of six forward areas he ran through without so much as a hand being laid on him.
2 No goals. It took nine attacks and nine points to counteract Cork's three goals. That's a big differential in effort and energy use. Plus a goal gives a team a huge psychological lift, as happened Cork three times at crucial junctures.
3 Clare didn't close out a game they appeared well on the way to winning. They were happy to get a second chance in the late, dramatic circumstances in which it arrived, but, on the balance of the 70 minutes, Clare will feel they should have burned off Cork during their dominant periods.
1 They were outmuscled in a lot of areas, notably across the half-forward line where Brendan Bugler (left) and Conor Ryan, in particular, were outstanding. It left Cork facing the most difficult problem of all – trying to stay afloat when a lot of their players were losing individual battles.
2 They didn't match Clare's tempo for most of the way which meant they were hanging on, hoping for something inspirational to happen. It did – in the form of three goals in the last half-hour – but JBM will be looking for a more controlled performance next time.
3 Below-par performances by a lot of their players. Cork got away with it last Sunday, but they probably won't survive if it happens again.
ONE OTHER THING...
Both managers will be unhappy with the number of scoreable frees conceded. While Colin Ryan and Patrick Horgan and Anthony Nash are around, very few fouls will go unpunished.
The trio scored 1-19 between them from frees and it took two great saves to prevent Nash from netting two more goals.