Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald has hit out at the pressure heaped upon his Clare team by local journalists “that wouldn’t be from hurling backgrounds” and ex-teammates “that wouldn’t have managed at a high level”, writes Stephen Barry.
The internal pressure that Fitzgerald feels is put on his players contrasts with the type of analysis which led him to bring Donal Óg Cusack on board as a coach and selector.
That pairing has returned Clare to the All-Ireland quarter-finals after a four-point win over Limerick on Saturday.
“Local media, especially with us, is horrendous. It's something I wouldn't be happy about,” said Fitzgerald, who spoke to Off The Ball this evening.
“We're not a county that has won a rake of All-Irelands and they think that because you've win two or three under-21s that naturally that gives you a God given right, that we should be winning All-Irelands every year.
“It's hard enough to beat the Galways, and the Kilkennys, and the Tipps, and the Waterfords and Limericks without getting pressure from your own crowd all the time.”
Included in Fitzgerald’s critique was Ger Loughnane, who, after Galway’s Leinster final collapse against Kilkenny, said, “You can forget about this Galway team - they have no guts whatsoever.”
However Fitzgerald was at pains to disassociate his team from his former manager.
“Ger must’ve had a fair idea that Clare could end up playing Galway within the next match. For a Clareman to do that… it's tough enough for us trying to beat Galway without having them thinking that's what we think. So I didn't see the point in that.
“Whatever motive he had, I don't know, but I thought it was a bit harsh. I'll always have great time for Ger Loughnane for what he did for us in Clare but sometimes I just don't know why he does stuff like that, whether it’s to keep in the media or what the story is. But myself, my management and our Clare team, I don't think we'd agree with it and I think the facts point out for themselves, if you reach two All-Ireland finals and win a Leinster, you can't be a really bad team.”
Fitzgerald contrasted that analysis with the punditry of Donal Óg Cusack, who agreed to join Fitzgerald’s backroom team last October.
"He was a breath of fresh air (as a pundit). If he had to say something, he'd say it, but you'd know it wasn't just having a go for the sake of having a go. He’d call it as he saw it all the time. That’s one of the reasons (I brought Donal Óg to Clare). I loved the way he looked at the game.”
Fitzgerald added that he includes himself in his own analysis and has to consciously control his heart rate during games.
“I analyse it myself a lot during the game. I will fight tooth and nail if I think a decision is wrong. I will fight for it and I will fight for the lads. But I’ll be straight back down. I would often check my heart rate during the games and, trust me, I won’t allow it to be up for long periods of time. I’d be calm to be certain of what I’m looking at.”
Meanwhile, the Waterford and Clare teams have been named ahead of tomorrow's Bord Gáis Energy Munster Under-21 semi-final in Walsh Park.
Several of the Waterford players will get a chance to bounce-back from the disappointment from their Munster final loss to Tipperary on Sunday.
Austin Gleeson has been named at centre back for the Déise, while Shane Bennett will lead the attack along with his brother Stephen and Patrick Curran, who are also in the senior set-up.
Connor Gleeson, who came off the bench during Sunday's defeat, is selected at corner-back.
Clare have named Aron Shanagher at left corner-forward for tomorrow's game, while David Fitzgerald is selected at full-back.