Two straight weeks good, three straight weeks bad.
After his team decisively won this local derby, Clare joint manager Donal Moloney didn’t conceal just how much his team got out of winning in Thurles last week and just how much playing both last weekend in the Gaelic Grounds and the one before it in Cork would have taken out of Limerick.
“There was such an outpouring of emotion in Thurles last Sunday night, even into Monday: that was a major threshold to cross,” he said.
“The players have been hurt the last few years. They’ve worked their socks off, as hard, if not harder, than anybody else, and the jibes and the negativity they’d been listening to was really hurting. And they’ve tried to put it right and I couldn’t speak highly enough of them, as people, obviously knowing them as far back as our underage days [with them].
“I just knew they were going to back it [the win over Tipperary] up today. The maturity and the communication amongst them and the way they’re growing together; it’s incredible. And their workrate and their belief in themselves and each other is growing with every day too.”
Although the winner of this game was guaranteed to reach the Munster final and leave the loser very likely to miss out on the province’s biggest showpiece, Moloney said that within the Clare camp the game was never referenced as a de facto Munster semi-final. They didn’t even think of it in terms of a Munster championship game. It was more about defending their own home turf from their nearest neighbours and building on the momentum and good vibes of Thurles.
“What pleased me most was the fact there was no panic. Limerick in Clare, it was always going to be a battle. The first quarter was tit for tat but we just kept working, working, working and eventually we got that daylight.
“But a big factor here today was the fact it was Limerick’s third weekend in a row. You could clearly see in the second half there was nothing in the legs. So that was a big plus for us.”
So was home advantage. Moloney feels that between the team’s first home game against Waterford three weeks ago and that trip to Tipp, the Clare public and the team have reconnected. That bond was evident yesterday and he hopes and believes it’ll show against Cork in the final.
“Look, our support hasn’t been great in a number of years — and maybe rightly so! Maybe [the public] didn’t believe too much in the team. But they came to Thurles. I think the crowd sensed how hard the lads are working and they gave us a huge lift there [against Tipperary].
“They came in today as well and filled the place, though Limerick had a great following here too. I think the way they got behind the team, it really added to it. It might be only 1%, but that’s all we need. Confidence is everything in this game, and if you have players feeding off the crowd, that obviously boosts confidence.
“So in two weeks’ time in Thurles, it won’t be like last year [Munster final] when it was 9:1 [Clare to Cork fans] or whatever it was. Hopefully it’ll be more 50:50.”
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