Kildare boss Cian O’Neill bemoaned his side’s failure to put Clare away during their period of dominance along with the concession of so many “needless” frees.
While insisting he wasn’t laying blame for the defeat at the door of referee Noel Mooney, the former Kerry, Mayo and Tipperary coach declared himself “perplexed” by what he considered the incorrect interpretation of the rules of football.
“I’m perplexed a lot of the time by some of the decisions,” said O’Neill.
“I don’t think it was the referee’s fault we lost the game. I’ve no issue with people making mistakes but when the rules aren’t carried forward, that would be a concern.
“There were a couple of things in terms of the legality of decisions, I thought they were wrong, as in the interpretation of the rule was wrong.”
Of more concern - and something within his control - is his side’s defensive frailties, which have been ruthlessly exposed by teams in recent years.
“Particularly in the first half… we let them in too easily in terms of those frees. It’s great to deny a man the ball but the guys have to learn that that’s only the first phase. If he does get the ball, let’s get into the second phase which is delaying them, stopping them, dispossessing them. We just gave away some soft frees that were needless in many cases. There’s obviously areas of our game we’re still trying to improve upon and we’ve time to do that. I’d rather learn these valuable lessons today, in a League final, than in a Leinster Championship. We came here to win and certainly had opportunities to win it and even put it to bed early on but for different reasons we didn’t.
“We finished the match with 13 men. Our game management wasn’t where it should have been, particularly in the last quarter, when we kicked four wides and dropped one into the ‘keeper’s hands.
“Full credit to Clare. They’re a very good team, they’re in Division 2 on merit. The running game they like to play is very effective and can be difficult to stop at times. That’s one of the key things we’ll be looking at ourselves to improve our own game.”
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