Tipp didn’t just sack the fortress, they blew it to smithereens

Clare’s Cathal Malone and Tipperary’s Ronan Maher battle for the ball during yesterday’s Munster SHC clash (Round 3) at Cusack Park. Picture: James Crombie

I’ve had better weekends. Spurs and Clare. Big dreams. Big plans. All ending in dust. 

I’m a long-suffering Spurs fan but I let the defeat on Saturday night quickly wash over me because I’d have gladly settled for a Clare win yesterday instead.

I had the weekend off. I was supposed to be working on The Sunday Game yesterday but it’s not too often you get to swap roles with a King. 

Henry Shefflin agreed to switch to last night so that I can cover for him next weekend.

My best friend Paraic Russell was at home from Leeds so I wanted to spend time with him. 

Another good friend, Niall McMahon, had his 40th on Saturday night so I watched the match with five loyal Spurs fans, and about 60 diehard Liverpool supporters.

It was bonus territory for me. I love the craic on Twitter about Spurs but my main focus was always on Cusack Park yesterday. 

I was expecting a big performance from Clare but the disappointment was all the more acute given the expectation beforehand, especially at home in what we all expected to be our fortress again. 

Well Tipp didn’t just sack the place, they blew it to smithereens.

Maybe we all read too much into Clare’s opening day win in Walsh Park, especially after Waterford’s capitulation down there yesterday. 

Using horse-racing parlance, our line of form certainly wasn’t as positive as we thought it might have been.

Clare were off the pace. Tipperary were far better but the row between Tony Kelly and Brendan Maher early in the second half largely summed up the match for me. Kelly upended Maher before Michael Breen arrived and milled Kelly as a reprisal.

The Tipp lads were more aggressive all afternoon, but it was smart aggression. They weren’t wild. 

Ger Loughnane was a great advocate for saying that wildness was stupidity. 

Loughnane never wanted us to back off, particularly against Tipperary, and to always be the last aggressor in any rows when you were trying to lay down a marker. 

That was always our aim as a Clare team in my time under Loughnane.

Tipp set the agenda from the word go. Clare matched them early on in scoring terms but, as the game progressed, and Tipp stretched further ahead, I felt Clare’s tactics were baffling. 

Usually, Clare are heavily dependent on Shane O’Donnell and John Conlon inside but they were being completely beaten, and the second half mirrored the league game when the sides met in January. 

Did Clare learn anything from that match? It didn’t look like they did because Clare just rammed the ball down on top of Paudie Maher again.

The game was over after Tipp’s third goal but playing a sweeper by that stage made no sense. 

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer and Clare’s David McInerney tumble during yesterday’s Munster SHC clash at Cusack Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach
Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer and Clare’s David McInerney tumble during yesterday’s Munster SHC clash at Cusack Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach

Ok, take off Conlon and throw in Aron Shanagher, but at least have two players beside or around him to engage Paudie Maher.

To be honest, I’m sick of listening to managers and pundits about systems, and that includes the present Clare management. 

I understand all that stuff but it drives me demented when teams are leaning on them too heavily. 

Tactics have a place but there has to be a middle ground too where you fight and go to war with the opposition. 

Clare didn’t do any of that yesterday and, to make matters worse, if Clare had a system, it blew up in their faces.

Tipp were willing to sacrifice Brendan Maher going as a man-maker on Tony Kelly. 

That allowed Clare to get more men deep, and create more space in the centre of their attack, but when the horse had bolted, Clare closed the gate by shoving Colm Galvin back as a sweeper.

In fairness to Liam Sheedy, he usually gets most of his match-ups right, but Clare didn’t match them on the chess board. 

The Tipperary forwards are extremely flexible. John McGrath can play in the corner, at full-forward or out on the wing. 

Seamus Callanan can do the same, including centre-forward. Noel McGrath is even more fluid and adaptable.

Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy and defenders Seadna Morey and Patrick O’Connor are left helpless as Seamus Callanan blasts home Tipperary’s second goal in yesterday’s Munster SHC clash at Cusack Park. Picture: James Crombie
Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy and defenders Seadna Morey and Patrick O’Connor are left helpless as Seamus Callanan blasts home Tipperary’s second goal in yesterday’s Munster SHC clash at Cusack Park. Picture: James Crombie

A forward line that flexible is always hard to tie down but I still felt Clare’s match-ups early on were working fine, especially Davy McInerney on John McGrath. 

John went to town when he changed to the wing but did management not have the confidence to say, ‘Davy, go out after him, back yourself’?

Clare never backed themselves after the opening quarter because they allowed Tipp to set the terms of engagement. Maybe all of us in Clare bought too much into the Park factor. 

The Park is the Park but you need to give the crowd something for it to come alive and Clare couldn’t find any spark in the second half. 

When Tipp started to run away with the match, Clare would have needed a bomb to get the place going.

It is a big setback for Clare but at least they have two games still to play, unlike Waterford who just have a dead rubber against Cork now on Saturday evening. 

Waterford will try and salvage some pride and try not to make it into the meaningless fixture it now looks but, realistically, where do Waterford go from yesterday?

Their main big guns – Pauric Mahony, Tadgh de Búrca, Jamie Barron, Austin Gleeson – are playing nowhere near to the level we have come to expect off them. 

Scoring ten points at home – and just three in the second half – is almost an embarrassment to, not only the team and supporters, but the effort put in by so many people to get championship games back in Walsh Park.

Waterford really look to be at crisis level. They could fall back on the sending off of Conor Gleeson in the first half against Tipp but there was no such buffer yesterday. 

The slap in the face to their supporters was even harder to take with the way Waterford basically collapsed after Limerick’s first goal.

Limerick’s main men were back on track but all of the Limerick players look to have rediscovered that edge and that cause they needed after the Cork performance. 

Their accuracy and stick passing was far sharper and crisper but John Kiely made a big statement from the outset by dropping Diarmuid Byrnes and Darragh O’Donovan. 

Byrnes was a huge call because he has been one of Limerick’s main men.

Managements need to be similarly brave in Clare and Waterford now in the coming days.

A lot of soul searching needs to be done so I’d be inclined to pull the group around in a circle and get stuff out in the open. 

Hard questions need to asked and answered, both of players and management.

Waterford need to start asking themselves those questions with the bigger and longer-term picture in mind, but Clare need to come up with the answers far quicker. 

Because they’re going into the lion’s den next Sunday in the Gaelic Grounds.

And Limerick will be hell bent on revenge for last year.

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