Clare’s Peter Duggan and Limerick’s Aaron Gillane have defended the free-taking shootout which decided their league quarter-final on Monday evening.
Voted through at Special Congress last September to eliminate the need for a replay, it was decided that if a qualifier, knockout league fixture, or provincial club championship match remained deadlocked after two 10-minute and two five-minute periods of extra-time, then a free-taking competition would decide the winner.
It was previously employed for the Walsh Cup final meeting of Kilkenny and Wexford, back in January, as well as the O’Byrne Cup semi-final, involving Meath and Longford, that same month.
Duggan, who twice found the target from the 65-metre line during the shootout, didn’t see a whole pile wrong with how this quarter-final was decided.
“In fairness to all these inter-county players, we have a lot of games to be played throughout the year, as it is. It is one less game to be played. Games are obviously great, but with the new [championship] format this year, it is great to get the games over and done with, considering this game would have to be played next week, if it went to a replay. I think it is a good idea,” said the Clare forward.
This was a sentiment shared by Gillane.
“I think it is [a good system], instead of coming back next week. Keep playing and playing.”
The players’ comments did not chime with the reaction of both managers, neither of whom was overly enthused by how this three-hour saga had been wrapped up.
Clare’s joint-manager, Gerry O’Connor, while appreciating the merits in wanting to avoid a reply, said the Banner camp was “a little bit disappointed with the way the whole thing finished up”.
Of course, there was the irony that a replay could have been accommodated next weekend, given the Galway-Wexford and Tipperary-Dublin league quarter-finals failed to take place over the bank holiday weekend.
O’Connor added: “That’s the system. You just have to embrace it. If I’m being honest, I’d have much rathered we went back to Ennis, next Sunday, to play a replay.”
Limerick’s John Kiely sung from the same hymn sheet. “It’s drama, but not the drama that you want. I prefer if the game, we all do, finished in a normal way.”
Duggan was keen to play down his 19-point contribution, alluding to his free during second-half stoppages, which dropped short when the sides were level. Aaron Gillane was equally effective from the dead-ball and the Patrickswell man described the shootout as incredibly pressurised.
“Scary, very scary. You feel like the best man in the world, once you’ve scored it. If you’ve to come back after missing it, I’d say it is a different story.”
He added: “I’d be the one struggling to last 70 minutes, never mind 100. Hopefully, we won’t have to do it again. It was worth it, in the end. Things are going well. We just want to kick-on and keep going the way we are.”
Having successfully overturned a nine-point deficit for the second weekend running, John Kiely’s young charges remain unbeaten in 2018. On top of their three Munster league victories in January, they are six from six in the national league. All this has been achieved without the Na Piarsaigh contingent, who remain club-tied.
“The boys were excellent [in the shootout]. They scored them all. They’d be the free-taker for their respective clubs so we had every faith in them,” said Limerick captain, Declan Hannon.
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