Wexford didn’t believe they could beat Banner

Two really entertaining games in the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday and, thanks to the timing, I was able to get to both, though the extra-time in Ennis put real pressure on heading to Thurles.

Wexford didn’t believe they could beat Banner

It was worth it all though, fantastic atmosphere in Thurles but even better in Ennis.

I want to talk about that first, the Clare supporters in Cusack Park. Well as the team played in the end, the supporters more than played their part too.

Wexford will be kicking themselves this morning because this game was there for them but what cost them in the end, apart from the Clare crowd lifting their team, was a lack of belief.

Nowhere was that lack more evident than in the penalty awarded in the second half. Wexford were three points up at that stage; a team with experience, a team with confidence would have gone for the jugular. Wexford didn’t. They took the easy option and pointed.

Another indicator of the lack of belief was all the wides they had in the second half and all the balls dropped short. That also suggested a lack of composure.

I have to say, they were the better team on the day and I don’t think anyone who saw the game would argue with that. It was Clare’s spirit that kept them in the game, along with the experience gained from last year.

A few key players also stepped up. Cian Dillon got a major score when he was called for but defensively he was outstanding also. Tony Kelly too left his mark on this game. Then there was Patrick Kelly in goal, completely justified his recall. There was a question mark over the first Wexford goal, might have been saved, but after that Patrick made at least four outstanding stops.

One man though above all, and not for the first time. When the pressure was really on, Conor McGrath stepped forward. Is there a better forward in the country? He’s so talented, intelligent and composed. He was the difference really, without him Clare would be out of the championship today.

Liam Óg McGovern caught the eye for Wexford, as did Paul Morris, the free-taker. Lee Chin too played well, Eoin Moore likewise, and young McDonald at full-forward. These are all the young fellas, bodes well for the future, and hats off to Liam Dunne for placing his trust in them.

The replay? I believe it’s going to be in Wexford Park, but coupled with the Leinster U21 final on Wednesday night. It’s going to be a very demanding few days for a lot of their players. It also gives Clare a chance to get their act together, to come to terms with the challenge they now know Wexford offer.

But for me Clare did not look a fresh team and the fact they played much of the game with 14 players will really have taken it out of them. As I said though, credit to them, they’re still in there.

To Semple Stadium, and this game was way ahead of what I had seen in Ennis. Galway played really well in the first half, Joe Canning flying at centre-forward, Jonny Glynn causing problems inside, as was Jason Flynn. Their defence too was going well, Iarla Tannian shining in a half-back line that was on top.

But what happened Galway in the last 20 minutes? None of these players were to be seen in this critical period, including Joe Canning.

They went six points up in the 52nd minute, scored only one point from there to the finish, while Tipperary hit them for 2-10. That suggests to me that there is something seriously wrong with this Galway team.

It’s not the training, it’s not the physicality, it’s a mental issue. The momentum was theirs, the game was theirs and they collapsed, fell apart.

Credit though to Tipperary. I spoke on Saturday about Matt the Thresher. Tipp brought that attitude to Semple Stadium. It was like Tipperary of old, they lowered the blade and took everything in front of them.

Their star players all stood up. John O’Dwyer (0-6), Noel McGrath (0-5) and of course Seamus Callanan with 3-1 from play.

The move of the match, in fact the winning of the match, was the switch of Padraic Maher — under fierce pressure from Jonny Glynn — out to centre-back, James Barry to full. Padraic was having a nightmare but he was transformed and James managed to spoil Glynn.

Contrast that to what happened at the other end. Seamus Callanan had Ronan Burke in real trouble from the start — the Galway mentors never made a move and ultimately it cost them.

On a side note: I was listening to two Tipperary supporters in the crowd, one kept asking the other, sarcastically — ‘Is Lar Corbett playing?’. Several times he asked him, until Lar got that magnificent point to put Tipperary into the lead in the 59th minute; a few minutes later he hit one even better. It shut up that one Tipperary ‘fan’ and it had everyone else lifting the roof!

Lar is one of those players whose score is worth an awful lot more than just on the scoreboard.

Be sure of this after the weekend — the team now to avoid in the draw is Tipperary. They’re back.

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