DONAL O'GRADY: Clare mislay first principles in splendid Páirc Uí Chaoimh Nua

Clare released the pressure by taking the wrong options when Tipp were vulnerable, writes Donal O’Grady.

hadn’t seen the inside of Páirc Uí Chaoimh Nua until Saturday last, before the Tipp and Clare game. It is very impressive. Croke Park lite, but not that lite. The stewards were very courteous, relaxed and welcoming and everyone was in the best of humour. All those concerned with the organisation of Saturday’s game, or with the planning and construction of the new stadium, should be very proud. As a famous Corkman might say, ”all credit to those involved”.

The Páirc Nua bears no resemblance to the former stadium, as that stadium bore no resemblance to the ground that it replaced. I have often viewed games from the terrace to the right of the Blackrock end goal. It was always a great vantage point to assess the attacking and defensive qualities on show. I was there on Saturday to take in some of the minor game. The steps are now higher and the view was superb, as it was from the media area and the main stand.

As I strolled around the side of the pitch (which looked a little strange without the 45m lines), I was mentally comparing the old sections of the stand and terrace with the brand new version, remembering where I sat or stood for various games over the years. I found my thoughts drifting back to memories of the old Athletic Grounds as well as to Páirc Ui Chaoimh, the Mecca for club players post 1976.

Growing up, the Athletic Grounds or ‘The Park’, as it was fondly known, was the pitch I always wanted to play on, as all the big games, both club and inter-county were held there.

Both the Athletic Grounds and Páirc Uí Chaoimh had a fantastic atmosphere on big match days. The challenge for those involved in planning and building the new stadium was to ensure that this atmosphere remained. Judging by Saturday’s game, this objective has been achieved.

I was with Billy Morgan doing a pre-game interview with RTÉ when he made reference to the record crowd and the great atmosphere in the famous Barr’s/Glen county final replay in 1955. The same opposition drew another record crowd to the county final of 1977 and the ‘big stadium’ setting gave a new status to Cork county finals.

From the mid-1970s, Páirc Uí Chaoimh influenced and inspired many young hurlers to pursue their dreams of playing there. Páirc Nua has the capacity to outshine its predecessor in this regard.

Underdogs need to build pressure and then to apply it relentlessly. The first principle of this basic tenet is to apply a squeeze on the favourites, play the percentages and, crucially, to finish any opportunities. Clare needed to apply all these principles to their play. However they released the pressure by taking the wrong options when Tipp were vulnerable. They ran at Tipp from midfield. It was successful as a tactic but they couldn’t sustain it through the second half.

Clare prised open the suspect Tipp inside defence, plundering two goals to level the game by the 20th minute. However, four poor wides when there were good attacking options available, released the pressure on Tipp who responded with four unanswered points to lead by five at half-time.

Tipp were deserving winners, shading the contest because of the ability of their attack to create and take their chances. It wasn’t a perfect display, but this victory builds further momentum as they proceed to the semi-final where they will be highly dangerous opponents.

They have problems in their full-back-line, which were exploited by the Banner in the first half, but this area of their defence improved after half-time, denying the Banner any clearcut goal chances until the dying minute.

I wrote last Saturday that Clare needed to lead this game but they were always playing catch up.

Tipp put big pressure on Andrew Fahy’s puck outs. ’Bonner’ Maher, Dan McCormack and Noel McGrath, who showed a renewed appetite for work, dropped back very deep.

This meant that there was a lot of ‘traffic’ in midfield. Clare keeper Andrew Fahy had to be near perfect to find his man with his restarts. However, they lost most of these. Some went astray in their own defence, leading directly to Tipp points. When the Premier won possession from these Clare puckouts on their half-back line, short accurate ball was all that was required to put their half forwards in possession, who in turn provided excellent deliveries to the inside attack.

The use of possession from their half-back line provided the Premier with a solid attacking platform. Up front, Tipp’s movement, first touch and support play allowed them to pick off points through composed combination play. This kept their noses in front, even when Clare struck six points without reply near the finish.

It was a nervous time for Tipp but the switch of Pádraic Maher onto the influential Peter Duggan halted Clare’s comeback.

This game wasn’t a classic, but it was interesting nonetheless. Tipp will be relieved — job done. Clare will be annoyed with themselves because they had their chances.

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