Lessons still to be learned
By Donal O’Grady, Tuesday View
In my column on Saturday I flagged Limerick’s greater goal potential and Clare’s tendency to give away frees and they proved the two main reasons for the Treaty victory in Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC qualifier.
The Limerick goals, either side of half-time, gave them the confidence to keep their noses in front in the second half. Seanie Tobin rose to pull on a high ball from a Gavin O’Mahony free and found the net for Limerick’s second. There are lessons for the Clare defence from this passage of play.
Tobin made an unhindered run from the side of the square and his momentum allowed him to leap highest to connect cleanly. Domhnall O’Donovan, who put in a fiercely determined defensive display throughout, should have picked Tobin up and remained tight and goalside, restricting his run instead of positioning himself at the front of the square. If he had, the ball would have dropped harmlessly into Clare keeper Patrick Kelly.
All of this is part of the learning process. The third goal, scored by Declan Hannon, was a piece of supreme opportunism and gave Limerick a hold on the game as their defence put up the shutters at the other end. Clare had the wind in the second half and operated a two man inside line. Darach Honan, Clare’s full-forward, should have been placed at the edge of the square instead of the right corner. Full-back Richie McCarthy was on a yellow card so he couldn’t afford to foul and Honan had a height advantage. Their outfield players would have had a target man and one good ball could have swung it for Clare.
In the first half, Clare outhurled and outfought their opponents after Limerick’s bright opening but trailed by a point at the interval after conceding easy frees. Clare rattled off seven points in-a-row and led by four. Limerick failed to score for over 12 minutes, being stuck on 1-6, but the frees and Tobin’s goal brought them back into the game.
Limerick scored nine points from frees, four in the second half. Niall Moran had an excellent five points and this kept the scoreboard ticking over and Clare at arms length as Limerick’s greater firepower and freshness deservedly carried the day.
Clare were clearly tired from midfield forward in the closing quarter. The previous week’s game against Dublin took its toll. Fairness dictates that the competition be the same for all but Limerick had a distinct advantage in terms of rest and recovery. Teams contesting the final qualifier games should have the same rest period and the GAA should ensure counties at this juncture have a similar recovery time.
I’m certain that those Clare players, particularly those just out of minor, must have felt the tiredness in their legs from the step up in pace and their exertions against Dublin. They couldn’t fully recover in seven days. There is an upcoming review of the hurling championship and this is an issue that should come under the microscope.
In the 54th minute of the Munster final between Waterford and Tipperary, Déise keeper Stephen O’Keeffe misjudged a situation and was punished to the maximum by Shane Bourke.
This was the most important play of the game and ultimately proved the difference as Tipperary stretched the lead to five points. The last 15 minutes or so was the game in microcosm. Tipperary outscored their opponents by four points to two. Premier wing-forward Lar Corbett, very influential in the second-half, went through twice but instead of taking the handy points on offer elected to pass and the move broke down, as had happened in the first-half. Noel McGrath with one, Eoin Kelly hit two and Shane Bourke hit the final score for the winners.
But when the Waterford management view the DVD they will see that they squandered numerous chances that could have made a difference.
In this period, John Mullane with six possessions and Seamus Prendergast with five were their main men up front but having to bring Mullane out to forage, (three points from inside in the first half, no score after the break) was a major disadvantage.
Looking at this final 15 minutes the best case scenario for Waterford (who by the 59th minute hadn’t scored for almost 11) was a score of 1-10.
But perfection is difficult and I’ll knock it down a third to 1-6 for realism. They missed three points from frees while Tony Browne missed a good chance by his standards. Prendergast and Mullane had wides while two shots for goals when points would have been a better option were spurned, with Tipp custodian Brendan Cummins making smart saves.
If Waterford had converted the two thirds the pressure would have built on Tipp and the margin could have been a two point game instead of seven. It often happens when a team concede a goal that they force the issue and look for goals too early when points would close the gap.
Defenders make mistakes when there’s a threat. Near the end, Maurice Shanahan was blocked when John Mullane was free in a goalscoring position with support from Martin O’Neill on the other side. Getting to a two point margin is the key for a comeback but the missed opportunities made it comfortable for Tipp who had the greater firepower.
Limerick drew the short straw in the quarter-final draw, coming up against the beaten Leinster finalists (Kilkenny this time) for the second year in-a-row. Cork have an easier draw and will welcome a proper championship game with Waterford after two bouts with Division 1B opposition.
Tightening the defence is imperative for Cork. At half-back Sean Óg Ó hAilpín may come into the equation. Starting him in his natural left half-back position last Saturday night would have been good preparation for the quarter-final whereas a 15 minute run out near the end, when the game was won, rather than a full game may have been of more benefit to rebuilding the confidence and re-igniting a spark for Willliam Egan.
The full-back line may revert to the line that operated against Tipperary or Stephen McDonnell may be in line for a recall but the game could be a good indicator as to where Cork lie in the scheme of things at present. Home