Clare were poxed to get a draw with Galway in the 1999 All-Ireland quarter-final.
We were nine points down at the three-quarters stage but three goals within the space of seven minutes got us right back in the contest.
And Seánie McMahon made sure it didn’t get away from us when nailing two late pointed frees.
When we got back into training that week, Ger Loughnane savaged us — again — for our performance, or lack of performance, for so much of the game.
We were hot favourites but we were at a stage where that real edge was slightly gone off. Yet it didn’t take much for Loughnane to sharpen it up again in those couple of training sessions before the replay.
We knew we had got out of jail but we also had the experience of a replay to draw on from earlier that summer.
We were so charged and pumped up for our Munster semi-final replay against Tipperary that June that we delivered one of our greatest performances under Loughnane.
I think there are similarities from that time now with tomorrow’s replay. Galway were expected to win the drawn Leinster final but they were much more convincing in the replay.
Galway were confident of beating Clare last Saturday but they will be even more driven to ensure they do tomorrow.
Galway won’t admit to complacency last week but they’ll have appreciated its insidious dangers over the past five weeks, and how silently lethal they can be.
No matter how much you try and guard against it, any little drop in mental focus can get in on you, and leave you totally exposed.
It’s just human nature, which is why I thought Galway were vulnerable last weekend.
That whole mentality has almost turned 360 degrees now.
There is a huge danger for Clare now if they get sucked into this belief that Galway are vulnerable, that they are staggering from injuries and mental and physical fatigue.
That attitude was certainly floating around the county all week. ‘We’ll bate them now. Galway are on the ropes.’
Players have to shut their ears from that kind of talk. The Clare lads will know as much but they will need to be better again tomorrow because the top teams are always better again in replays.
We were under Loughnane. Kilkenny always were under Cody. Galway may have lapsed in the third quarter against Kilkenny in Thurles last month but their performance was still considerably better than what they produced in Croke Park seven days earlier.
The bear has been poked. The animal is mad. It wants retribution. Its pride has been hurt from the scrapes and cuts from the drawn game and it wants to show its true self.
No matter who is playing, or who is missing with injury, you can be sure that Micheál Donoghue won’t have had any difficulties motivating his players this week.
Clare will be pumped up too but they need to manage the whole mental energy very carefully in this kind of a situation.
They know they are good enough now but there is also the risk of some players regretting that they didn’t finish the job last weekend, of being fully aware that the bear has been poked, and that the backlash is inevitable.
When Dublin drew with Kilkenny in the 2013 Leinster semi-final, I felt, deep down, that we had blown it. We were leading in added-time when TJ Reid clipped a point with the last puck.
Kilkenny’s superb record in replays was in the back of my head.
We had a conference call with Gary Keegan the following night and he immediately picked up on it. And he challenged me.
‘What has changed here?’ Gary asked. ‘You’ve changed Anthony, it seems. You need to go in tomorrow night, bring the players in around you and ask them what has changed. Nothing has changed.’
That was the positive attitude I brought to training that evening. ‘What will happen if we go down 1-4 to 0-0 after 10 minutes?’ I asked. ‘Win the next ball,’ said Ruairi ‘Budgie’ Trainor.
That will have been the big challenge for both managements this week. They’ll seek to ensure that proper mental focus but Galway have some big tactical calls to make.
They need to keep the ball wide and away from Colm Galvin as the sweeper but they also need to mix it up more.
Maybe play Joe Canning at full-forward, and throw something at Clare that they weren’t expecting.
Galway will hope to be sharper and more ruthless but an awful lot of this stuff is in the head too. They were hot favourites last week and then they went ahead by 1-7 to 0-1 after 17 minutes.
By that stage, I’m sure the little fella inside all of their heads was saying to each Galway player: ‘Yeah, this is going exactly as we expected, exactly as everyone told us it would.’
There is a huge responsibility on every Galway player this week to blow all of that stuff out of the water, to absolutely focus on every little detail, to make sure that absolutely everything counts.
Every score. Every ball. Every pick-up.
I’m sure when Galway looked back on the analysis this week that they’d have noted stuff that would have horrified them.
Instead of being 1-7 to 0-1 ahead after 17 minutes, Galway could have been on 2-11 at least.
What would Kilkenny in their prime have done in that situation? They’d have annihilated Clare and made sure the game was over by that stage.
That’s the way Galway need to think, that every single player needs to be cold-blooded and ruthless, that when they have a team on the ground, they bury them.
Clare were sharp last week when redeploying Galvin as the sweeper after 15 minutes but could they have been sharper?
If they knew that Conor Cleary was going to go man-for-man with Joe Canning, did they not need to look at Plan B from the throw-in?
What do Clare do now? If they go with Galvin again, are they too predictable, especially when Galway will be ready for it?
I think they should but that could all go out the window if Joe is injured. Clare need to have a Plan B and C and be ready to immediately react and adapt to what Galway throw at them from the start.
Nobody knows where Galway are at with their injury list. It’s probably not as bad as initially envisaged.
Gearóid McInerney is probably out but I heard Adrian Tuohy had a virus, which will surely have cleared up. Conor Whelan should be ok too, by all accounts.
The word on Joe is that he’ll be fine. Yet how do you define ‘fine’ at this level?
Good and all as Joe is, can he survive being 80-85% fit? Can you imagine the lift it would give to Clare, and the punch in the gut it would give to Galway, if Joe hobbles off after 15 or 20 minutes?
Galway have been very lucky with injuries over the last year-and-a-half. Apart from Paul Killeen, who tore his cruciate knee ligament against Dublin in May 2017, they’ve hardly had a muscle strain.
Some big names missed a raft of league games but Galway always had a full deck to pick from before now. Until now.
Micheál and his management will be trying to keep all this stuff as positive as possible; that it’s a chance for other guys to step up; that it gives Galway a chance to throw something different at Clare if certain guys are out.
If McInerney is missing, Padraic Mannion can slip into centre-back, Davy Burke may sit deep in the half-back line, with young Sean Loftus being drafted into midfield.
They may even decide to let a mobile and fast guy like Loftus track Tony Kelly around the pitch, which Galway didn’t do last week.
Kelly will feel that there is still more in him but so will Clare.
Some of the other players who struggled in the Munster final have progressively got better ever since, especially up front; Kelly, Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan.
An improvement again now from Podge Collins and David Reidy would turn Clare into a seriously potent force, especially with John Conlon in the form of his life.
Clare can’t afford any more of these lulls. If they go nine points down tomorrow, there won’t be a way back. I expect Galway to be far more clinical this time around.
Favourites normally turn up and play better for replays. I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I was before last Saturday.
But I’m still sticking with Clare to win.
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