Wednesday 24 January 2018

John Mullane: Goals can raise Banner to summit

Davy's points machines have scope to step up level and foil JBM's plans

Daniel Kearney gets tight to Clare's Colm Galvin during the drawn All-Ireland hurling final - Cork will have to employ similar tactics all over the pitch if they are to win the replay next Saturday
Daniel Kearney gets tight to Clare's Colm Galvin during the drawn All-Ireland hurling final - Cork will have to employ similar tactics all over the pitch if they are to win the replay next Saturday

John Mullane

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Jimmy Barry-Murphy won't want to be caught out by Davy Fitzgerald again and I suspect that the Cork manager is devising a game plan to put Clare on the back foot in Saturday's All-Ireland final replay.

Before the drawn match, Cork would have trained to counteract Clare's sweeper system.

That was evident in how close their half-forward line played to their full-forward line. But when the sweeper system didn't present itself, Cork were flummoxed and they struggled to adapt.

For the third match in a row, Clare could do pretty much what they pleased, as the game was played on their terms – as it was against Limerick and Galway.

Cork know that they must close down the space that the Banner men create for themselves.

And to win this replay, they must implement their own strategy to force the issue.

JBM will want his defensive sextet to stay close to each other, rather than seeing them dragged out of position and out the field.

Cork might even decide to play Clare at their own game, with seven at the back.

Using Conor O'Sullivan as a sweeper would see the Rebels break away from their traditional man-to-man style, and that would certainly give Clare something to think about.

I firmly believe that this is the way to beat Clare, and the only team to have tried this strategy this year was Waterford in the Munster U-21 championship at Walsh Park.

David McInerney, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly and Podge Collins – all definite starters for Clare next Saturday – were in the Clare line-up that night.

Waterford were three points up early in the second half and with 10 minutes left to play, Clare were only two points clear.

The Deise were reduced to 14 players in the second half and what that evening proved was that the Clare style can be susceptible to a well-organised defence containing an extra man.

Cork struggled the last day and yet they hit 3-16 – good enough to win most matches. This time, they'll really aim to get off to a good start, but the big question is – can they improve?

Lorcan McLoughlin, Pa Cronin, Luke O'Farrell and Conor Lehane will have been thoroughly disappointed with their performances in the drawn match.

If Cork are to push on, Cronin could be the difference. I wouldn't be surprised if the captain starts at midfield.

Clare will look to do pretty much what they did a fortnight ago but if I was Davy, I'd start Shane O'Donnell at full-forward.

He's more suited to the way they play and he's a more mobile option than Darach Honan, who may be better served coming off the bench.

Clare went back to something similar to the way Waterford played in 2010, when I occupied that lone full-forward position.

It just goes to show that Davy is able to play different systems and structures on any given day, and with different teams. That's the beauty of Clare's management – they can throw teams by mixing it up.

An obvious worry for them is that in four games against Cork, in league and championship, they've scored just one goal. But if Clare do bag a goal or two, they'll win the game.

I'm sticking with them to finish the job at the second attempt. Many people are wondering if they played to their maximum ability but I think there's more in them.


They scored 0-25 and you might question whether they can run up a score like that again. But take the Munster semi-final against Cork out of the equation, when they hit their lowest tally of the championship season (0-15), Clare are hitting an average of 28 points per game.

They're scoring for fun and they can get up to that level one more time and win this All-Ireland.

The U-21 success will have come as a massive fillip to them also.

It's another trophy in the cabinet for many of these young players, another entry on the hurling CV.

I would love to see Seadna Morey getting more game time next Saturday.

He's a guy I like and, while he didn't feature the last day, he could do a job in the full-back line, half-back line or midfield. He's top class and Clare could use him a lot more.

It's Clare to prevail by two or three points, on the proviso that they raise at least one green flag. Then, they can proclaim themselves as the big fish, with hurling's prize catch in the bag.

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