When Davy Fitzgerald and his backroom team sit down this week to analyse where things went wrong for Clare on Sunday in Thurles, they should identify three key areas which need major improvement: Use of possession, discipline, and the need to be more competitive in the vital midfield battleground.
Limerick only won this match by one point and their possession tally was only a little higher than Clare’s, but it is interesting to look at how both teams used their possession.
Limerick had a total of 147 possessions in the game and they hand passed the ball 41 times and only gave it away on 10 occasions. In contrast Clare had 126 possessions but they only hand passed the ball 28 times and gave the ball away 21 times.
What these stats tell us is that Limerick made much better use of their possession and the key to this was their use of the hand pass to players in better positions. Clare, on the other hand, opted for the route-one approach, but this tactic failed on a continual basis.
Clare’s indiscipline was also hugely significant: They conceded 16 frees in total, which was exactly double Limerick’s tally. Unlike football the concession of frees in hurling is normally punished to the maximum and, on this occasion, Shane Dowling contributed 10 points from frees and also missed with a couple of other efforts.
In contrast, Colin Ryan scored five points from frees, amounting to half of Limerick’s total. In a game of tight margins, these are the crucial stats that win and lose games.
The sending off of Pat Donnellan just before half time also proved crucial to the outcome of the game.
The third key area and probably most important of all was Limerick’s dominance of the middle third of the field. Their midfield partnership of Paudie O’Brien and James Ryan ruled the roost on Sunday and Clare were powerless to curb the influence of the duo.
When you add the contribution of Paul Browne and Gavin O’Mahony to this, it is easy to see why Limerick held sway in this key area.
James Ryan was imperious on the day, winning 21 possessions and his use of the ball was also crucial to Limerick’s game plan. Only Tony Kelly and Colin Ryan really showed any ability to compete with their counterparts. Davy Fitzgerald will have to look at this key area also ahead of the qualifiers, with the loss of Colm Galvin and Brendan Bugler proving to be crucial to this Clare team’s overall performance.
There were also some positives for Clare to take from this game, however. They can point to their dominance of the puck outs, winning 63%.
Clare also had a massive 82 tackles, hooks and blocks in the game. Limerick’s tally of 67 was also decent but, with stats like these, few could question the work rate of the Clare side.
There was very little to choose between the teams in the shot conversion ratios with both in the high 50s percentage, but this is also an area where the two counties will look for improvements.
The desired norm for shot conversion rate for most managers in championship hurling would be at least 66%.
One other interesting stat from the game was the almost complete lack of ground hurling in Thurles, with only nine ground strokes played by both teams on the day.
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