Limerick hurling manager John Kiely did not agree with much of the criticism thrown at Clare for the meek second-half display they offered up last Sunday.
Trailing Tipperary by 1-14 to 0-11 at half-time in their Munster SHC contest at Cusack Park, any hopes of a home rebellion were quashed within five minutes of the restart as Seamus Callanan fired in a second goal for the visitors. Tipperary, who won the second-half by 2-7 to 0-6 to run out 13-point winners, outscored their hosts by 2-14 to 0-11 from the 21st minute onwards.
The flak which the Banner County came in for such was their tame second-half effort, according to Kiely, was overdone.
“There has been a lot of negative reaction to Clare’s second-half performance, but that is nonsense, really,” the Limerick boss said yesterday evening, ahead of Clare’s visit to the Gaelic Grounds this Sunday.
“The first 20 minutes between Clare and Tipperary were extremely intense, very high quality, very high efficiency on the scoring front, as well. The bottom line is that Tipperary are flying at the moment and every team seems to be struggling with them.
"Clare gave them an awful lot of trouble in the first-half and if they maintain that for a longer period of time, that is going to be a real challenge for us.
Sunday has taken on a new level of importance the way the results have panned out.
Both Clare and Limerick have two points to their name ahead of this Sunday’s meeting, what will be the counties’ first championship get-together at the Gaelic Grounds since 1996, a game which the Treaty County edged by the minimum thanks to an inspirational Ciaran Carey point.
Recent clashes have gone the other way, with Clare coming out on top in 2016 (round two of the qualifiers), 2017 (Munster semi-final), and 2018 (Munster round-robin).
“I was out there in the dugout for the game in 1996. I remember it very, very clearly. It was a great duel between two of the strongest teams in the country at that time, a game of extremely high quality. It was an amazing game, capped off by an amazing score,” Kiely recalled.
“1996, mind you, isn’t very high on my priority list right now. 4pm next Sunday is what is important. Clare have had our number over the last couple of years when it comes to championship matches. But if you were to delve into it, there is a bit more to it than that. We were just really disappointed with our performance in Ennis last year.
We did not perform in any of the metrics. It was a performance similar to what we had against Cork this year. The boys will be very determined to ensure that that does not happen again.
Having fallen at home to Cork in that aforementioned provincial round-robin opener, the All-Ireland champions remounted the proverbial horse last Sunday with a 20-point thumping of Waterford. Kiely sees his charges having to raise their performance from what they produced at Walsh Park if they are to avoid a fourth successive championship defeat to the Banner.
“Whoever can get the best performance out of themselves next Sunday is going to win the game, that is the bottom line. I would hope that last Sunday would give us a bit of confidence that we can get to a level… we tend to generally improve as we move on through the games. I’d be hoping that we could take it up a notch from last Sunday. I think we’ll need to if we are going to be competitive next Sunday. We’ll need to go up a notch or two.
“It has been, maybe, anything but the championship we expected. It has thrown up a lot of unusual results, a lot of away wins. Teams have struggled with their consistency. We have 73 or 74 minutes to put in a really big shift on Sunday. We know the stakes are extremely high. We have got to get that performance on Sunday. Everything outside of that is completely and utterly irrelevant to me at the moment.”
Barry Murphy, who scored a point upon his introduction against Waterford, is not expected to be available this weekend, owing to a leg injury. Seamus Flanagan, who did not feature against Waterford, is back in the frame for selection.
Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly