As Clare and Dublin manager over the years, I had it hot and heavy with Brian Cody on the sideline a few times.
Before Clare played Kilkenny in the 2004 All-Ireland quarter-final, Cody had dominated Galway, the referee, the linesmen and anyone else who got in his way.
I felt they all rolled over for him and I certainly had no intention of letting him walk all over me.
Just as importantly, I wanted to send the same subtle message to my players that we were all going to stand up to this crowd.
Early in the second half, there was a confrontation over a line ball and I was ready for what ever transpired.
We didn’t cross swords again until we met in the league in Croke Park in 2011.
He was probably taken aback by my brazenness in 2004 but he didn’t take it lying down when I lost the rag with him over another contentious decision. Heated words were exchanged and we nearly came to blows.
We laughed about it afterwards but the heat on the sideline reflected what transpired on the pitch. On an evening of hailstones and thunder and lightning, the Dubs dug out a great draw.
It was a huge result for us because we were desperate to make a statement against Kilkenny. We had lost to them in the 2009 and 2010 championships but we needed a big result against Kilkenny to frank the progress we felt we’d made. Over a month later, we beat them for the first time in a league final.
I’m not saying for a second that we had the better of the argument but certain big wins – and performances — against the old nemesis were massive for us along our journey.
Kilkenny gave us a lot of trimmings but we did eventually beat them in championship and that league final win was a massive factor in believing we could.
It’s obvious now that Tipperary are in desperate need of one of those wins against their arch rivals. You can talk all you want about misfortune and Hawkeye after last year’s drawn All-Ireland final but Kilkenny still went home with the cup. Tipp need to stem the Kilkenny tide and they need to make a big statement in the process.
What would be wrong with Tipp winning this league? I also think they’re capable of stepping up more because of the new leaders I saw emerging last Sunday in Ennis.
Cathal Barrett, Conor O’Brien and John McGrath really impressed me — along with what seemed a new maturity from Padraig Maher — in their attitude. I liked the way they showcased the Tipp mindset of, ‘Yer (Clare) needs may be greater but, sorry about that, we’re still going to bate ye in yer own field’.
The reality, though, is there isn’t much point in showing that mindset against Clare if they’re going to roll over again to Kilkenny tomorrow.
They need to win but they also have a chance to fire Kilkenny into a potential relegation battle, and administer some hardship in the process. Kilkenny were never shy of sticking the knife into Tipp whenever they had the chance. I expect another massive performance from Kilkenny but I fancy Tipp to win and make that statement.
Cork’s scoring rate against Dublin was off the charts. Having an 80% scoring return on chances created is massive this time of the year, but they will face a different challenge in Salthill on a bog of a field compared to the carpet of Croke Park.
Plus, they’ll probably have a vicious crosswind blowing into their pusses and a Galway team desperate for points knowing they have to face Dublin in Parnell Park in their last match.
The challenge is increased further for Cork with the blow of losing Christopher Joyce. Even for the few minutes he was on last Saturday, he had shown in front of Liam Rushe for three or four balls. It was a different test from the previous challenge posed by Shane O’Donnell and Cork looked to be on the way to finding a full-back.
Stephen McDonnell did fairly well as his replacement but he has to really step up now with Joyce’s loss. After the high of last weekend, tomorrow’s dogfight – because that is what it will be – will tell Cork far more about themselves than last weekend appeared to suggest.
In Cusack Park today, Clare are in a slightly similar position to Tipp, albeit in a very different form. They just need a win, however they get it, against Dublin.
A lot has been talked about how Clare have now gone a full year without a win. It’s easy to forget how heroic Clare were in taking the game to extra time in Wexford Park last July with 13 men so fellas need to forget about the timespan and just focus on the games to come.
There was a marked improvement in Clare’s performance last Sunday, especially in terms of urgency, particularly with Conor Ryan, Cian Dillon and David McInerney. I thought Shane O’Donnell did a lot of good things too but Clare have got to give him greater support in how they tactically set up in attack.
In the modern game, it’s nearly impossible now to get a one-on-one in front of goal. Any wing-back worth his salt is going to track back and cut down that space 30 yards from goal so Clare need to deploy Conor McGrath closer to the red zone. I’ve no problem with Clare playing a defensive game – they’re very good at it – but they need more support alongside the target man or the spearhead in front of goal. In my time with the Dubs we played a sweeper only once but we often played three in midfield — crucial to that game plan was that the two inside forwards played close together inside the opposing 21 yard line.
Dublin will have studied Clare closely. They know what is required. Clare haven’t been scoring goals while Dublin didn’t concede any goals last weekend either. They will want to keep it tight and hang in. With that in mind, Clare will have go more for broke if they are going to break their losing sequence.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved