Fitzgibbon switch key to Cork’s turnaround

There was a delay in Cork’s return to proceedings after half-time yesterday. They had gone in four points behind, but it could have been more. Cork used the time well at the break and were a different outfit in the second period.

Fitzgibbon switch key to Cork’s turnaround

You could imagine Bill Cooper, and other team leaders speaking of character, commitment, and determination at the interval. The management were active, moving Daragh Fitzgibbon to centre-forward and Chris Joyce to centre-back.

Both were master switches. Joyce was far more comfortable in this role than Mark Coleman had been and he put up the shutters in the second-half.

Fitzgibbon had been unwell from the previous Friday and was not himself in midfield. He looked short of his usual, all-action energy. He was moved to left-half-forward, in a swap with Daniel Kearney, after 25 minutes.

I watched him leave the field slowly at half-time and I thought that he would be replaced.

However, he returned and took up his new position, at centre-half forward. He began the Rebels’ resurgence with a top-class point, just after half-time, and added an audacious effort with 20 minutes left.

He put in a great shift in the centre and brought excellent link-up play to the position.

A piece of Fitzgibbon wizardry released Daniel Kearney, who slipped a slide-rule ground pass to the edge of the ‘D’ to the strong-running Bill Cooper. The timing and angle of Cooper’s offload to Seamus Harnedy was perfection.

Harnedy burst onto the ball and found the net with 12 minutes of normal time remaining. I have been critical of Cork’s goal-awareness, but this match-winning goal was expertly created and there will be many repeatsshown in the Rebel video room.

This was a game of two halves. In the first period, Clare looked bright, energetic, and full of running. In pre-game discussions, John Conlon was earmarked as the greatest danger to Cork in the Banner attack and he did not disappoint in the first 35 minutes.

Clare’s forward tactics ensured there was plenty of open space in front of the strong-running full-forward. Corner-forward Podge Collins played 45/50m out from goal.

David Reidy operated at centre-half forward, with Tony Kelly at left-half, rather than in the centre, as was expected.

Peter Duggan hugged the right-hand touchline and with Reidy pulling stand-in centre-back Mark Coleman, out to midfield there were open channels for Conlon.

He set the tone for the Banner, notching four points from play before 20 minutes had elapsed. Conlon was opposed by Damien Cahalane, who elected to play him from behind. This was a risky strategy.

Conlon was getting a supply of straight ball into him and Cahalane might have been better-served to stand in front, or at least shoulder-to-shoulder with the full-forward. Switching Colm Spillane with Cahalane was another good move.

Cork allowed Clare goalkeeper, Donal Tuohy, to hit many short puckouts in the first-half. This enabled Clare to build from the back and find the gaps that troubled Cork.

When the Rebels forced Tuohy to go long on his puckout, their half-back line had success, as Clare’s main ball winner, Peter Duggan, was being forcibly challenged by Eoin Cadogan.

Clare were full of running in the first-half and their forwards were rotating at pace. A trademark diagonal run by Tony Kelly, having picked up the ball on the left behind his own 65, set up David Reidy for a superb goal and the Banner were buzzing.

They were five points in front, Colm Galvin was enjoying his outing in midfield, while they always seemed to have a covering defender behind the half-backs.

They couldn’t push on, because Cork clung on. By the 30th minute, Cork manager, John Meyler, must have been pleased, to an extent. That opening half-hour was all Clare and yet Cork were only four points behind, having played second fiddle.

A flick-on goal by Peter Duggan edged Clare seven points in front, but a long Anthony Nash puckout was caught by the excellent Seamie Harnedy and Luke Meade ran a great line to grab the offload and score a goal just before half-time. This gave Cork a serious lifeline.

Clare may have expended too much energy in the first-half. In the first 20 minutes of the second-half, the Banner had only scored two points, while Cork had notched up eight. Cork’s half-back line and midfield took over.

Clare’s Podge Collins moved out to play as a double centre-forward, which suited Sean O’Donoghue, as the Rebels set down markers early after half-time.

Tony Kelly played the majority of this half at wing-forward, but he failed to ignite the Clare attack to any great degree.

Cork pushed up for puckouts and forced the goalkeeper, Tuohy, to strike long restarts to his half-forwards.

This played into Rebel hands. Two of Clare’s dangermen, Shane O Donnell and John Conlon, got no supply, as Cork’s hard-working forwards and dominant half-back line disrupted the supply to the Banner inside attack.

Bill Cooper and Daniel Kearney provided a strong attacking platform at midfield and the Cork attack cleverly allowed a lot of space in their left corner.

Time after time, good-quality deliveries were landed in this sector, which found the excellent, hard-running Patrick Horgan, with his marker, David McInerney, having little chance to intervene.

Clare did play until the end and Ian Galvin popped up for a goal. There is a lesson here for Cork. Ruthlessness is required at times.

David Fitzgerald was allowed to run 50m to set up the goal. At five points ahead with time almost up, the requirement was to concede a free on Fitzgerald, take the yellow card, if needs be, kill some time, and secure the four-point victory.

Munsrter GAA Chairman Jerry O’Sullivan presents the trophy to Cork’s Seamus Harnedy. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Munsrter GAA Chairman Jerry O’Sullivan presents the trophy to Cork’s Seamus Harnedy. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

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