John Mullane and I have had this ‘friendly’ €20 bet over the last few months on the outcome of the Clare-Waterford championship match in June, but we decided live on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday to bring it forward by five weeks. Now it has turned into a rolling bet, the money still sweating in the pot until next Sunday. We hope.
Mullane has enough euros to keep him sweet in the interim anyway because he was one of the many to cash in on the 9-1 odds of no goals. Some people thought the goal drought was over after the 10 green flags raised in the semi-finals, but it was unrealistic to expect an oasis to appear yesterday, with both teams grinding into each other hard enough to turn grass into a desert. Mullane has always been a cute boyo.
Anthony Cunnigham and Tomás Mulcahy were also on the radio with us. I said to Mul afterwards that this had an air of 1993 about it, when Cork and Wexford played out a three-game epic league final saga and then we came along a few weeks later and ambushed Cork in a Munster semi-final.
There was a jingoistic mood in the air afterwards. I was making my way down from the Kinnane Stand at 6.07pm and the majority of Clare and Waterford players were still on the field signing autographs and obliging fans for selfies. It was great to see for the kids and supporters but I’m not sure it was what Davy Fitz and Derek McGrath would really have wanted. I’m sure Brian Cody, Mick Ryan, and a host of other managers would have been delighted to see that fiesta atmosphere.
‘Let ‘em at it again. Let all the hype continue to be about Clare and Waterford.’
And all those boys planning their own ambushes down the line.
A draw was still the fairest result. After all their profligacy and wasted chances, a defeat would have inflicted a deep cut on Waterford’s skin. The last point said so much about Maurice Shanahan’s character because he had been struggling before he stood over it.
Pauric Mahoney was also on the field but Maurice had the conviction to nail it. The warm embrace between Maurice and Davy afterwards was another standout moment. Davy would have first brought Maurice into the Waterford panel and given him his chance in 2009.
It was another war of attrition but what did we expect? That’s just the way it is now in the modern game, especially with how these teams play, and how they set up. At one stage, I counted 22 bodies between both ‘65s. Waterford sit very deep across the half-back line, with their sweeper covering behind. Clare try and bring everyone into the middle before pumping the ball to the wings and backing their runners but Waterford never allowed the runners to take off.
In fairness to both teams, they did commit more bodies forward, or at least pushed further forward in extra time. Usually, the team that takes the initiative in extra time prevails. Although the Déise did this, it is to Clare’s credit that they fought to the death — this is the reason they have not been beaten in 2016. The revival was kickstarted by an inspirational point by the excellent David Reidy but it was a ball that young Shane Bennett should have taken more care of. Tom Devine had a couple of goal chances superbly denied by Pa Kelly while Aaron Shanagher forced a brilliant save from Stephen O’Keeffe. Tommy Ryan could have been in for a goal when another ball was popped over the top but he slipped and settled for a point.
Colm Galvin was also brilliant when coming back on in that period.
Tony Kelly produced some great stuff late on too after dipping in during the second half. Podge Collins won a crucial free on the stroke of half-time in extra time but lads were out on their feet everywhere by that stage.
Those key Clare players will come on from the extra game-time but Waterford will also expect a higher return from some of their big guns next Sunday.
Jamie Barron was outstanding and was Waterford’s best player. Waterford’s system stood strong and resolute throughout, but I also thought their bench had a bigger impact. Devine had a fine match. Tommy Ryan played well when he came in. Even Brian O’Halloran made a significant contribution.
If I had one complaint about yesterday it was around why Hawkeye wasn’t in place. I know they were trialling the system but I don’t understand why the system couldn’t have been in place for a game of that magnitude. A few supporters directly behind Tony Kelly’s wide in the second half were convinced the shot had gone over.
Despite the frustration from the fractured and stunted play for long periods, there can be few complaints from such an enthralling contest.
Roll on Sunday.
And roll on that rolling bet so I can take some cash off a flush John Mullane.
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