Stand up and fight until you hear the bell
keep punching ‘til you make your punches tell
show that crowd what you know
until you hear that bell, that final bell
stand up and fight like hell.
There’s so much to be taken from those famous lyrics to the adopted Munster anthem ‘Stand Up and Fight’.
In any scrap, you have to face down your opponent, look them in the eye and then go toe-to-toe, punch and jab until you can’t punch anymore, keep going until, hopefully, you are the last one standing.
As the barrage of punches land on your chin, and the pain rages through your body, you have to keep fighting like hell.
Clare have been in agony all week, and while the pain is likely to return again tomorrow, they have to keep swinging until that final bell rings.
The word on the ground this week is that the players organised a meeting on Monday evening to apologise to the management.
That was a decent start but actions need to follow words now.
I’d stand up all the players, one-by-one, go around the room and ask them one basic question: are you going to let a Cork man outwork you?
Let him answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in front of the whole group.
I wouldn’t ask are you going to be beaten because you’ll often come up against a better player. We all know how good Patrick Horgan is but can you limit Hoggy to two points from play as opposed to letting him bag 1-5, or 2-3?
Clare are better than what they’ve been showing but management have to be decisive with their team selection and how they’re going to go about trying to beat Cork. I’d either go with a sweeper from the first ball, or else just play full on 15-on-15. That might sound like lunacy against this Cork attack but this is all about standing up and fighting for Clare.
They can’t be relying on tactics and strategies tomorrow; they’ve got to keep punching until they make their punches tell.
I’d throw Aron Shanagher in on Eoin Cadogan and fire John Conlon out to the wing on Mark Coleman, and land all of the puckouts down on top of Conlon and Peter Duggan. Leave Shane O’Donnell inside alongside Shanagher and bring whoever else is named in the full-forward line out to scrap for the breaks on those puckouts. The tactic would be fairly straightforward coming out of defence — puck the ball straight down on top of Shanagher, who, if he doesn’t catch the ball, get him to at least break it. That might sound like total old-school stuff but tomorrow is a day for old-school values.
Tipperary sacked our fortress of Cusack Park but let’s try and turn the place into a fortress again. If Clare feel it would benefit the team, bring in the sideline and make the pitch even tighter again, and make it even more of a battle. We’re fully entitled to do so if we feel it would be an advantage; Clare did so before against Galway in a qualifier in 2007 and they turned them over.
Cork have been making all the right noises this week. They also know they have the safety net if Tipperary beat Limerick but the threat of complacency remains very much alive. If you’re a Cork player, you’re bound to be thinking deep down, ‘Ah, Clare’s form is dire, we’ll surely bate them’.
Cork have Dougie Howlett involved now as a performance coach but if there is any team susceptible to a lax attitude, it’s Cork.
You saw in the first round against Tipp how they can be sucked in, but taking their eye off the ball has often been Cork’s downfall.
We’ve all been there, both as a player and manager, when you think everything is right, and it isn’t. Before the 1998 Munster final against Waterford, Ger Loughnane had us fired up but, deep down, I knew we weren’t right. I knew Waterford would be a threat but, as a group, we just couldn’t get to the mental pitch we needed to be at.
That team got off on causes and being pissed off and I can see some of those traits in Tipperary this year. They listened to all the stories last year of this team being finished, of how they had let the jersey down, and they look like a team with a real cause now.
Tipp got slapped around the Gaelic Grounds by Limerick in early February but tomorrow’s game is even more interesting because both teams will be anxious to put down a marker, particularly with the likelihood of them meeting again later in the summer.
Limerick have clearly learned a great deal since the Cork defeat and they’ll arrive in Thurles pumped up to maintain the level of performance they’ve shown over the last two weeks. You could see a couple of more big personnel changes just to keep lads on edge because I’m sure the training has been savage. I feel Limerick may just shade it but in not knowing the line-ups it’s impossible to call.
Being honest, the real drama is kicking off in Leinster this evening, in Parnell Park and in Wexford Park. Dublin are the one team who definitely have to win to make sure they advance but I think they can. Away wins have been far more common than last year but I expect the Parnell Park factor to come into play here. I also think the Mattie Kenny/Greg Kennedy partnership will work in Dublin’s favour too because of their inside knowledge of Galway.
Galway had a massive win in Nowlan Park six days ago. Confidence should be sky-high but a six-day turnaround after such a brutally hard-hitting match cannot be underestimated either, and particularly when Dublin have had a two-week break since beating Carlow. Dublin will be fresh and I don’t think they’ll get a better opportunity to take the kind of scalp that the men from the capital have been craving in recent years.
If Dublin do get the win, Kilkenny may very well be the team to lose out. Going to Wexford is never an easy task but I have been impressed with Wexford. They should have beaten both Galway and Dublin but the most positive aspect was that they still emerged from those games with something.
If they can keep their season alive, Kilkenny will be getting better if they advance but there are always doubts when you have players injured, or coming back from injury. Richie Hogan should start but it’s difficult to know how fit Cillian Buckley, James Maher, Joey Holden and Walter Walsh are.
I was looking at my Fantasy League hurling team during the week and wondering how I’ll go about negotiating my way through the transfer window which closes this afternoon.
You’d want TJ Reid on any fantasy team but TJ may have no more balls to puck with Kilkenny after this evening. A lot may depend on the result in Parnell Park but if Wexford can get a handle on TJ, I fancy them to pull it off.
I’ll stick my neck out and say that Dublin, Galway and Wexford will come out of Leinster. Cork should join Limerick and Tipperary as the top three in Munster but anything could still happen over the next couple of days.
A lot of us felt that the top three would be decided by Clare and Cork in the Park in the last match and, while the dynamic has radically changed over the last two weeks, nothing has really changed either. It’s still very much all down to tomorrow.
We have all been down and out in Clare this week but, in a perverse way, I love down and out too. I often think that is the greatest opportunity to get a result that nobody expects you to secure. We were haunted to draw the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway in 1999. Loughnane insulted us up to our eyeballs for the whole week and we came out and blew Galway away in the replay.
We did the same to Tipperary earlier that summer when we blitzed them in a game that should never have gone to a replay because Tipp dominated the drawn game, just as Galway had. Loughnane was unique in how he could generate a response but Clare have always been a great county for a backlash. Clare’s form has been horrendous. A lot of the hurling public have abandoned the team. Morale and spirits are low. I’m not saying that Clare are going to win tomorrow but these boys owe it to themselves, their families and particularly the management, to at least stand up and fight.
And to keep punching until they hear that final bell.