John Mullane: Ryan needs to think again
WHEN you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. Clare and Davy Fitzgerald didn't need much more motivation before yesterday's game after my antics last year.
Waterford manager Michael Ryan is never slow to give his opinion but I am sure Fitzgerald used his comment from last year – about Clare climbing Carrauntoohil – to motivate the Banners players in the build-up to the game in Thurles.
I think that Ryan also needs to weigh up his tactics for these big games because Waterford have to find a Plan B if they are to go toe-to-toe with the big teams. On yesterday's evidence, climbing mountains isn't something to be scoffed at, because Clare scaled a significant peak by winning their first game in the Munster championship since 2008.
And I thought the difference in fitness between the two teams was colossal. Waterford ran out of steam but Clare moved into another gear, as they did against Cork in the league relegation play-off.
Noel Connors did an excellent job on Conor McGrath, but McGrath remained patient and took his opportunity, even when things weren't going his way.
In last week's column, I highlighted the battle between Michael 'Brick' Walsh and Tony Kelly. Tony showed early promise, switching off Brick and back on him again. And once the game opened up, Tony was going to pick off the scores, which he did.
Kelly and Conlon scored seven points from play between them but from a Waterford perspective, the undoubted highlight was Jamie Nagle's performance.
He was excellent over the 70 minutes and really kicked on from his league form.
At the other end, Brendan Bugler had a massive game for Clare. He was my man of the match, having shown huge leadership when Clare needed a player to stand up and carry the fight to Waterford.
The big worry now from a Waterford perspective is how tamely they played in the second half, and their fitness levels.
It might not be such a bad thing to go into the qualifiers and get a couple of matches under their belts for the younger lads.
For Clare, it's upwards and onwards, and they'll only get better, more composed and more relaxed in forthcoming games. Getting that win in Munster is a real monkey off their backs because, in particular, it will give their youngers players belief that they can performer at this level.
For 45 minutes, the game was played at league pace, and maybe the difference was Davy's team talk at half-time. But I also felt that referee James McGrath helped Clare back into the game.
I don't like being critical of referees but between the 45th and 50th minutes, he gave soft frees to Clare and that enabled them to push on and win the match.
At the other end of the pitch, Darragh Fives was unfortunate to find himself whistled back when an advantage should have been played and that was another critical moment in the game.
And when Shane O'Sullivan was pulled to the ground shortly after that, no free was given. I thought McGrath was unkind to Waterford at a time when we needed to resist Clare pressure and pinch a score of our own. But, overall, the second half was a throwback to the Waterford of old – playing well in the first half before capitulating to a large degree. When we really needed to kick on, we ran out of steam.
Clare looked to have settled really early, with John Conlon causing problems before Jake Dillon provided a lifeline after Clare's short-passing game broke down. Waterford gained energy from this and began to prosper, with Maurice Shanahan causing problems for the Clare full-back line.
Clare lost a clearly-injured Seadna Morey but Colin Ryan's switch to midfield steadied them considerably. And another crucial factor was the glut of wides before and after half-time. I watched the game in Doyle's pub in Benalmadena, and I've to admit that waking up yesterday morning did feel strange. I was half-thinking to myself: 'Have I made the right decision?'
But there was a good Waterford contingent in the bar and as the game wore on, I got used to shouting on the lads, just like a regular punter. It was a shame about the result but we should have been seven or eight points up at half-time, instead of four.
Missed chances proved costly but a lack of lateral thinking returned to haunt Waterford too. There are plenty of lessons to be learned.