Before big contests, individual opponents are sometimes measured against each other with a view to determining the outcome. If this operation was carried out for Cork and Clare tonight the Rebels would be ahead.
Clare’s wing backs Brendan Bugler and Pat O’Connor would be scored higher than their opponents, while Pat Donnnellan, Séadna Morey, Tony Kelly and John Conlon might shade it or tie depending where they play. But this is a paper exercise based on an individual’s perceived ability and it takes no account of the collective motivation, general team play, application or a team’s work ethic.
Clare are a young, enthusiastic team but they lack size by intercounty standards. They bid to perfect a high level support game to break down opponents. This requires huge work rate. The physical and mental effort required for their win over Galway last weekend may have taken its toll as it’s difficult to get up for big games two weeks in a row — as Tyrone footballers found out last week.
Picking Cork captain Pa Cronin at centre-half back is interesting (he is not guaranteed to start there) as last year’s evidence pointed to his talents being needed further forward .
Clare’s Tony Kelly doesn’t play a traditional central “40 man” role so a different type of challenge will be presented to Cronin tonight. Kelly uses his pace and stamina to move out to midfield or to the wings and likes to drift in behind his marker from the side making himself available for short accurate deliveries from midfield. Marking Tony Kelly may necessitate man marking duties rather than the traditional centre back holding role.
It will be similar at the other end with Cork’s Paudie O’ Sullivan, opposed by Pat Donnellan, adopting a roving role to create space for his half forward colleagues and attacking midfielders. Use of this tactic necessitates the supremacy of a team’s midfield and half backline.Cork’s midfield of Lorcan Mc Loughlin and Daniel Kearney should shade the battle in this area but they will have to be mindful of their defensive duties.
Closing down opposing defences and forcing hurried clearances through high work rate and discipline rather than allowing defenders to hit measured accurate deliveries is the order of the day for both teams. Winning this battle of collective forward and midfield defensive work rate will go a long way.
Discipline is a crucial aspect of any game and if either team can keep their indiscretions to the minimum it will pressurise their opponents. Cork have more potential for scores from play so Clare can’t afford to give free chances to Pat Horgan and if Cork can remain disciplined at the other end it will make their night easier.
Stephen McDonnell, looking the preferred long term option at full back is out for four to six weeks. He is replaced by Brian Murphy who may lack a little match practice. Clare’s John Conlon is a strong physical player who alternates in this position with the pacy Shane O’Donnell, a first year student in UCC. These two different type of players alternating at the fringe of the square will provide a good challenge for Cork’s central inside defence if they get a good supply.
If any problem has bedevilled Clare over the years it is their lack of out and out goalscorers. Darach Honan is the nearest they have but he is gently making his way back to some sort of fitness after minor hip operations. But Cork haven’t been to the fore in the goals scored department either.
Still it’s an ideal game for the Rebels inside line to unleash their dormant goalscoring talents.Cork’s superior scoring power allied to their work rate should see them home.
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