In the aftermath of a Munster championship game, marshalling hard facts can be a challenge, but we pieced together the case against Waterford from the available evidence.
Exhibit A: the wides Waterford hit on the resumption of the game weren’t fatal, but they were enough to put their chances on life support. A four-point lead could have been stretched even further, and they created good chances on the resumption, but hit four wides before Clare scored — two of which were poor.
“After half-time we had four good chances,” acknowledged Waterford manager Michael Ryan. “We needed to take one or two of those.
“Some wides from some very good positions as well.
“You have to take your chances when it matters and we didn’t do that today. But we missed those chances and gave Clare a lifeline.
“Then they got a bit of a run on us, they got a couple of points in a row and then they got a goal and there was no catching them then.”
Ryan rued those chances because at the half-time break they’d spoken specifically about availing of any such opportunities that came along.
“We had some good chances, chances we’d normally take, and when you don’t take those chances you pay the price.
“We felt at half time we were in a very strong position, but we also said that the next 10 minutes would decide the game. They were on the rack a little and we had the opportunity to finish it off, but we didn’t take that opportunity.”
Exhibit B: It wasn’t over for Waterford then, though. They had dominated at half-back in the first half, with Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and Jamie Nagle outstanding on breaking ball, creating the platform from which Waterford kept the Clare full-back line under intense pressure.
However, Clare turned the tables, with Brendan Bugler, in particular, gathering almost every Waterford delivery that landed in the Clare half of the field. That meant it was the Waterford full-back line which had the ball rained in on it after the break, leading to last-gasp fouls by Paudie Prendergast and Walsh in order to prevent Banner goal chances.
Ryan acknowledged the systems failure on their own delivery.
“We struggled on our puck-outs and we probably should have gone for more short puck-outs,” said Ryan.
“But that’s the way things are — sometimes when things aren’t going your way the obvious can be hard to see.”
Exhibit C: Waterford capitalised on a sloppy Clare clearance for the game’s opening goal, from Jake Dillon, but they created no other goal chances through their own approach play.
Though Clare finished the game eight points to the good, the contest was alive deep into the last 10 minutes and Waterford needed another goal badly. Ryan conceded they had said as much themselves before the ball was even thrown in.
“We spoke about goals and we felt we’d need two goals to win the match. We had one good goal chance and Jake [Dillon] took it very well, but we didn’t even create another goal chance.
“That’s something else we’ll have to look at. It’s been a weakness in the team in the last couple of years.”
Exhibit D: It was widely forecast that Clare’s fitness would be a significant factor in yesterday’s game.
Ryan wasn’t conceding anything in terms of physical conditioning but admitted, crucially, that once Clare got motoring they were difficult to rein in.
“Clare did the same thing to Cork, they struggled in the first half of that game and they’re very fit — as are we — but when they get on a roll they’re very hard to stop.
“It looks that you are physically fitter and stronger when you are going well and on a run. It didn’t look that way in the first half.
“I don’t think our physical conditioning was the problem. It’s just that we didn’t nail them when we had the chance to.
“Having said that well done to Clare, they fully deserved their victory, no qualms about it.”