ANTHONY DALY: Clare are due big game but Galway will be formidable

Ger Loughnane, being the bould Ger that he is, just can’t help himself sometimes. Cutting loose, slashing and burning and razing Galway, Micheal Donoghue and Joe Canning is nothing new but the timing of his comments, with Clare now in the other corner, could turn on his own county like a backdraft.

Deep down, the Galway players know Ger doesn’t represent what the Clare players or management think but that is irrelevant now.

Deep down, we always knew Nicky English didn’t laugh at us in the 1993 Munster final. He was more or less sniggering at his own players who set him up for a point. Nicky’s attitude was, ‘Will ye shag off, and hit it over yer selves’.

We never even mentioned that incident when we met Tipp in 1994 and turned them over. Our main motivation that year was for our former team-mate, John Moroney, who lost his life tragically the previous winter.

The Lord have mercy on John, he had no chance to avenge that humiliation, so we had to do it for him.

The famous ‘Nicky snigger’ only resurfaced when Loughnane took over in 1995.

‘Do ye want them laughing at ye again?’ he would repeatedly roar, with him looking at me and Brian Lohan most of the time he came out with the comment. He didn’t even mention English but Good God, when Nicky took over Tipp in 1999, Loughnane went into overdrive.

‘Do ye want them laughing at ye again?’ I can still hear it ringing in my ears.

We’d be meeting for a pint after a match and we’d be saying to ourselves, ‘Jeez, the laughing thing is gone out of all control.’

Deep down, we knew Loughnane had completely inflated a harmless image but Ger knew exactly what he was at because it got through to our subconscious and we consistently used it as additional motivation to turn the gun on Tipp.

If I was Micheal Donoghue now, I’d be trying to channel that criticism for the benefit of his own players. If I was Joe or Andy Smith or David Burke, I’d be using it too. Aside from Ger’s comments, Micheal and the players are fully aware of the perception now of Galway, that they are chokers, that they haven’t stood up since last year’s management heave. If they go out of the championship tamely tomorrow, there will be a call for a major player cull, and to begin a big reconstruction project.

There is serious pressure on the Galway players but that also extends to the Clare lads, who were poor against Waterford, and not convincing enough against Limerick. Clare were better than the scoreline suggested two weeks ago but they still aren’t hurling with the fluency that you’d expect them to have at this stage of the season.

Galway have been hammered since the Leinster final but I think the perception of their display, and collapse, was over-exaggerated.

Apart from a ten-minute period at the end, Galway went toe-to-toe with Kilkenny. I know that that ten-minute period is where it counts but if Galway can get a 70-minute performance tomorrow, they will be hard to beat.

I see little between the teams and I expect the game to be decided by the big guns on both sides; Canning, David Burke, Daithi Burke, Tony Kelly, David McInerney, John Conlon, Podge Collins (whatever state he will be in after today’s football match. Surely people in Clare GAA knew that this day was going to come to pass at some stage, the funny but or not so funny thing is that he wasn’t allowed to play both with two good knees).

Conor McGrath is still carrying a hip injury but he may feature in the second half when the game has opened up.

In games like this, where the two sides under such huge pressure are so evenly matched, it will take something special from your big players to secure the result. Even if your other nine or ten players play out of their skins, you still won’t win if your big guys don’t turn up.

It will be fascinating to see what both teams bring to the table tactically but I expect Galway to be smarter in their set-up than Limerick were. Limerick consistently allowed Cian Dillon to be a target for short-puck-outs ( short puck-outs ? He was allowed receive them 50 yards from goal, lunacy) and consequently, was a launchpad from the middle third. Limerick finally knocked the legs from beneath that platform when they pushed up on Dillon late on but it was too late by then and they were only chasing the match. I’m sure Galway will have noted as much and that they won’t allow Clare to win such handy possession on their own puckout.

They know too that if Clare are forced to drive the ball long, they don’t have too many ball-winners in their half-forward line.

Clare are desperate to get back to Croke Park but there is no guarantee they will get there. This Galway team has loads of experience now of the big days, and plenty of good forwards with real pace. If they hit form, especially Joe, they can beat any team in the country. It will come down to who stands up the most but I think Clare are due a big game. They’ll need it to win.

Clare are due big game but Galway will be formidable

The curtain-raiser between Waterford and Wexford doesn’t carry the same profile but I also think this will be an intriguing match for a variety of reasons, especially to see how much effect the Munster final hammering had on Waterford.

I am expecting a real bounce from Waterford now. They hadn’t played a poor game in two years and one poor half hour of hurling is not going to define this group. It was just one of those days when everything went wrong and, believe me, I know how much things can spiral out of control when one of the big guns gets a run on you.

The five big players that Waterford took off — Austin Gleeson, ‘Brick Walsh, Noel Connors, Maurice Shanahan and Pauric Mahoney — summed up their day.

When will those guys play as poorly again?

I fancied Waterford to win the Munster final but I wasn’t the only one. An unusual amount of pundits did.

We all probably ignored Tipp’s good form on the basis that Cork and Limerick were so poor and I think that weight of expectation on Waterford got to the players.

From what I’m hearing, they have responded well. They have a huge win against Clare in the Munster U21 semi-final, which was a statement of intent with so many seniors involved.

I was convinced that Wexford were goosed before they played Offaly but I really admire the way they have turned their season around and huge credit to Liam Dunne for never saying die.

Seeing the effect Lee Chin had on them against Offaly, something in me gave them a chance of beating Cork, a victory effectively led by Chin.

It’s amazing the difference one big leader can have on a group because the other players have risen up around him.

Liam Óg McGovern, David Dunne, Paudie Foley and Conor McDonald were also excellent against Cork but Dunne, in particular, won’t get the opportunity to perform those little tricks against this Waterford defence.

Wexford will take inspiration from their one-point defeat to Waterford in the league quarter-final but Waterford have advanced a fair bit since then whereas you couldn’t say that Wexford have, or that they are even near Waterford’s level.

I don’t think Waterford are out of this championship by any stretch. I don’t think you will see any major alterations to their philosophy either. They are there to win matches for their county, full stop.

If Derek McGrath believes that this is the way for this group (which I’m convinced he does), then this is the way they will stay going. Everybody says that it won’t get them over the line but who knows?

I’m expecting to see a hurt group of players tomorrow hell-bent on getting back on track again.

I think you will see a more ruthless edge to Waterford’s play and I fancy them to win with a small bit of daylight .


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