There was a comment made by a Cork hurling supporter after this game yesterday — “I’m getting fed up of losing to Clare teams!”
I said to her, “You might as well get used to it!” but it wasn’t the last word, never is when you’re in Cork company. Another Corkonian came right back: “Well we did it to them often enough and for long enough, they had to get used to that!”
The thing is, that’s history, in the past. Cork hurling has gone back and on the evidence of this game, on the evidence also of the All-Ireland final, they’re going to have to work on their game if they’re to catch up again.
Sixmilebridge gave Midleton a hurling lesson yesterday, not so much in stickwork but in teamwork, in composure, in how to win a game when it comes down to a battle.
The Bridge had everything you need; they had the individual hurlers but they also knew how to link, how to support each other. They were clued in, alert, aware of what was happening all round them. Midleton were not.
It wasn’t that everything went smoothly for Sixmilebridge. Before the game they had lost experienced corner-back Tadhg Keogh — they dealt with it, Brian Carey had a great game.
Up front they brought in Pa Sheehan for Danny Morey and Pa scored three points from play. During the game they lost midfielder Kevin Lynch, who was having a stormer. Sam O’Sullivan came in seamlessly.
All the signs of a side ready for anything, a team properly prepared, of a management getting everything right.
Contrast that with Midleton. On the field they lacked composure. How many wides in the first half, eight? While Sixmilebridge were shooting just one. That’s a major difference. In the second half then they lost their discipline, started to concede easy frees and that too cost them.
On the line they were lacking also. Why couldn’t they pick out Jamie Shanahan and Caimin Morey for Sixmilebridge, both of whom were having outstanding games, and assign markers to them?
The Bridge singled out Conor Lehane, made sure every time he got the ball he got extra attention. Why didn’t Midleton do that for Shanahan and Morey, both of whom were outstanding?
It started for Sixmilebridge with their keeper, Derek Fahy. As with Clare keeper Pa Kelly in the All-Ireland final Fahy was able to find his man almost at will, several times leading to scores for Sixmilebridge. This also comes back to what I was saying about Midleton, their lack of concentration.
The Bridge defence also was outstanding, led really well by Caimin Morey from centre-back. Young Páidí Fitzpatrick did as good a job as you could expect on Lehane, held him to just one point from open play (Conor’s goal came off the rebound of his own 20m free).
Lehan is a real dangerman, he could also have had another goal, set up a few points but what really impressed me about Fitzpatrick was his discipline. When you’re on a man-marking job like that, you can ruin it by giving away frees. However, I don’t think Páidí fouled him once. That was also a sign though that the Sixmilebridge management knew what they were doing, they knew their man.
On the same vein I would also single out team captain Aidan Quilligan who did a similar man-marking job on another danger-man, Luke O’Farrell, doing just as effective a job on him as he did on Clare star Colin Ryan in the Clare county final win last Sunday.
For the second Sunday in a row though the man who stood out for me was midfielder Jamie Shanahan. Alan Mulready’s goal was a great example of his hurling intelligence, picked him out with a pinpoint pass from distance. Injuries cost Shanahan in the last few years but he’s back to his best and will be a real addition to Clare in the future.
Overall, Midleton will be disappointed but they were also a disappointment. They can have no complaints, were beaten by a better, hungrier team.
What a final in prospect now next Sunday, with a dyed-in-the-wool Bridge man, Sean Stack, managing Na Piarsaigh.
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