There’s a touch of the 2013 momentum building behind Clare and Cork will need to tread extremely carefully in Semple Stadium next Sunday as they attempt to retain the Munster SHC title.
There are a few cast members from that season that have located their mojo again and it is one going marginally under the radar that John Meyler and the Rebels will need to negate the most in Thurles.
In that campaign, one that yielded an All-Ireland success for the Banner to Cork’s detriment, Podge Collins was operating in and around Hurler of the Year territory the whole summer.
Collins could have wriggled his way out of a straightjacket on the field that season and still raised a key point or two for Clare. He was unmarkable, essentially, linking all the Banner’s best work from the middle-third right up to the opposition’s 13-metre line.
Collins knitted Clare together in 2013 and was arguably the main reason for their ultimate triumph such was his brilliance in the All-Ireland series including the drawn final and final replay.
Tony Kelly, of course, was officially selected as the Young Hurler of the Year and Hurler of the Year in 2013.
However, we are sure the majority would agree a serious case could be made that Collins was as influential for the Davy Fitzgerald-led outfit.
Collins’ form, for various reasons, primarily injury-centred, has been inconsistent ever since, almost symbolic of Clare’s form overall.
Yet, following a cameo showing against Tipp in the league basis of the Munster SHC this term, it seems Collins has recaptured the magic.
He ripped the Premier to pieces when introduced in Semple Stadium for Conor McGrath a minute before half-time.
He hit three gorgeous points and represented a phenomenal source of electricity where they need it most in the midst of an attack not fully sure of themselves.
With the exceptions of both Peter Duggan and John Conlon, magnificent performers, Clare’s offensive unit has been lacking a semblance of bite.
For example, Clare had only six different scorers against Limerick despite notching 0-26 in total.
Yet, it was Duggan who contributed 50% of that collective output with 10 converted frees, a ’65 and two other scores in open play.
Cork, it must be said, often have had a similar issue with an overreliance on Patrick Horgan to bump up the Leesiders’ tallies.
However, the Rebels, due to scoring contributions from the likes of Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Bill Cooper, on a regular basis, appear, at least, to be less reliant on the Glen Rovers man of late.
Outside of Clare’s starting forwards in their clash with Tipp, only corner-back Jack Browne popped up with a score.
Again, on that occasion, Clare had six scorers. At this level, you will find that the most successful teams tend to have at least eight on a given day.
Of course, that is not to say Clare will not have more than six on Sunday. However, it is significant that they have been shy of players from outside of their attack prepared to take on the responsibility of contributing to their scoring ratios.
They racked up 1-23 against the Premier but, again, it was Duggan that hurt Mick Ryan’s side the most with a personal tally of 0-15 including 13 converted placed balls.
Jamie Shanahan and Colm Galvin hit 0-1 each from wing-back and midfield respectively against the Treaty.
Yet, if only Duggan and Conlon are firing for the Banner in the provincial final from those starting in their attack, more of those out the field will have to try to pick off scores from distance if they are to dethrone the Leesiders.
However, it is expected, what with Collins back in the groove, that Clare will indeed be more potent on a truly massive occasion.
Newbridge or nowhere
As of this morning, there was no sign of a resolution to the ‘Newbridge or nowhere’ story that developed at a rate of knots on Monday.
The GAA hierarchy were totally in the wrong in this situation and Kildare are completely right to stand their ground.
As Cian O’Neill stated on RTÉ News on Monday evening: “Stick to the rules you created”.
By the time you read this, the correct solution has been reached and the game will be played in St Conleth’s Park on Saturday night.
Kildare dug in and got what is rightfully theirs, a home tie for their qualifier clash with Mayo.
The GAA can claim the decision to initially fix the match for Croke Park was based on Health & Safety grounds.
But given the local authorities have no issue with the game being held there it is a cop-out for the GAA to use that as an excuse when the only realistic motivation here is boosting their coffers.
They would do well to remember that the Association was never supposed to be driven by monetary figures in the first place.
And, obviously, they will deny the fact finances was a factor in their decision to pencil the fixture in for headquarters.
However, the dog on the street knows it had to have been in their thinking.
Besides that, the GAA cannot shift their own goalposts in terms of the rules when it suits them.
It seriously detracts from the integrity of the competition.