Monday 20 November 2017

Cyril Farrell: Shrewd Davy has all the materials to build a dynasty

Cyril Farrell

THE greatest final of all time? It's certainly up there, along with the 2009 decider between Tipperary and Kilkenny. These Clare and Cork teams will be included when they come to debate just which game should be ranked at number one.

In any case, it's certainly the greatest replay we've seen as this game was even better than the first.

There's much to reflect on and when the dust settles – and there was plenty of it kicked up on an epic day in Croke Park– there'll be one outstanding fact. Across 140 minutes, Cork led just once in the two games and that came in the dying moments of the drawn game.

Other than that, Davy Fitzgerald's Clare were the pacesetters and, as a result, deserving All-Ireland champions.

Cork kept battling away and Jimmy Barry-Murphy went for a more physical side by including Cian McCarthy from the start, but they couldn't combat another quick start by the Banner and left themselves with too much to do.

They had a plan to use Patrick Cronin on the edge of the square and it worked to an extent, but JBM was typically gracious in defeat afterwards and acknowledged that Clare were the better side.

That was title number four for Clare, but can it be the start of something bigger? To win an All-Ireland takes some doing, but to come back and do it again is a different thing altogether.

Judging by the character this Clare team have displayed so far, there's no reason to suggest they'll settle for one All-Ireland.

For a team so young, they did brilliantly to stay in the game when Cork drew level midway through the second half.

They also might have raised the white flag in the drawn game when Cork pegged them back despite making all the running, but they never blinked and never took a backwards step.

Fitzgerald's tyros also had the significant distraction of the U-21 All-Ireland final but, judging by the way they started this game, they never missed a beat.

The difference between this game and the drawn one was that Clare really went for the jugular from the start. At times the first day, they looked happy to pick off scores rather than take their man on, but they had blood in their nostrils from the off this time round.

Shane O'Donnell's selection underlined that. He's known as a goalscorer in Clare and when Pat Donnellan fed him rather than take his point for the game's opening goal, you knew Clare meant business.

Another reason why Clare should be around for years to come is their bench. They've a number of players who are good enough to be on the team but at the moment just can't force their way in.


Seadna Morey is highly-rated and he could turn into anything, while Cathal 'Tots' O'Connell is another who will force his way into the team in due course. There are plenty of lads just bubbling underneath the surface who we will see a lot of over the next few years.

In Davy Fitzgerald, Clare also have a trump card. I've said before that he's a lot shrewder than he's given credit for. After the last day, he was criticised for not reverting to his sweeper system to shut the game out.

But he stuck to his guns for the replay, knowing that going man on man reduced Anthony Nash's options from the puck-outs which can give Cork a platform from where they can hurt you.

And when it came to the final few minutes of Saturday's game, he added extra security to the rearguard to ensure there was no way back for Cork. Lesson learned and credit to him.

In the build-up to these finals, Clare's management were eager to pour cold water on the talk of an upcoming golden era for the county. They have taken the first step towards that and everything is in place to ensure the Banner will be around for years to come.

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