Five things we learned from the weekend’s GAA action

Clare lack killer instinct and learn an essential lesson: Goals count...

Clare’s goal drought kills them

Yesterday’s defeat to Galway followed a trend that has haunted Clare these last three seasons. In their six championship defeats since the 2013 All-Ireland final replay, they have scored just six goals: 2014 — Cork (two) and Wexford (two); 2015 — Limerick (two) and Cork (0); 2016 — Waterford (0) and Galway (0). Just like last year, they exited the championship mustering just 17 points. Clare don’t need to look too far to discover where they have been caught short in their last three SHC losses — in front of the posts.

Yesterday, playing two inside forwards against three Galway full-backs wasn’t the wisest course of action when 10 points down and aided by a second-half wind. When Clare needed to play with some abandon they couldn’t move away from the style they have been so accustomed to in recent years.

One that was so rewarding in 2013 but has since been overtaken by the likes of Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Galway who have learned to adapt but also consume.

Tipperary will fight

In previous years, there’s no doubt Tipperary would have wilted late on against Cork as they would have against Derry on Saturday evening.

Despite conceding late goals in both games, Tipperary showed nous and cuteness in seeing out wins each time.

After Eoghan Brown’s late goal and Danny Heavron’s follow-up point, Tipp were two down going into additional time, a sad place to be having been five up on the hour.

But Tipp bossed the final minutes, never looking frazzled in their recovery.

The manner in which they worked the ball into Conor Sweeney for those winning points showed such composure. Just as against Cork in their attempts to close out the game, Tipperary weren’t averse to the dark arts either and Kevin O’Halloran was sent to the line for a black card offence.

Not a laudable sign of maturity but one, nonetheless.

Collins wants to build for the future

Colm Collins would be forgiven for basking in the glory of leading his side into the last eight of the All-Ireland senior football championship. But the Clare boss isn’t programmed that way. In the minutes after the Banner’s sensational win over Division 1 residents Roscommon, Collins said occasions like this should be seen as the norm, nor a rarity for Clare football.

“It’s very important that this isn’t a standalone thing for Clare football: that we get our structures right underneath and the great work that is being done at development squad level continues,” he explained. And in an era when we have become obsessed with systems and strategies it was refreshing to hear what Collins considered to be the cornerstone of the development of any young footballer.

“It is key that young fellas want to play football for Clare and they are given coaching, coaching, and more coaching. That it is all about the ball and all about skills, And that is very important: That we underpin these kind of days with the work at the bottom.”

Waterford’s system is in good health

As expected, Waterford went back to basics for their All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Wexford. Not alone did the Déise commit a huge number of defensive errors in that Munster final drubbing to Tipperary, they were also forced to abandon their tried and tested system when chasing the game in the second period. Waterford’s defensive wall was in place from the off against Wexford and, more importantly, was commanded with the composure so lacking in the Gaelic Grounds. Wexford were held to five points in the opening period, with full-forward Conor McDonald outnumbered three to one on several occasions. Waterford’s reward for keeping faith with their system: A second successive All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Kilkenny.

Galway passed latest Ger Loughnane gut-check

Having described Galway as “gutless” following the Leinster final defeat by Kilkenny, RTÉ pundit Ger Loughnane was prepared to eat a little humble pie and pay generous tribute to the Tribesmen after the six-point win over his native Clare.

“Galway were a physically stronger team. The great thing about Galway today, their defence and their workrate,” said Loughnane on RTÉ’s coverage of the game.

“They worked so hard, something you have to do in the modern game. And something they haven’t always done... It was much better than I’ve seen for a long time.”

He added: “As long as it isn’t a one-off display, they might have turned a corner today.”

Loughnane praised Clare for not surrendering, but felt the defeat raised question marks about where the current setup is going.

“It now raises real questions about Clare, maybe about the quality of the team and where the team is going.

“The future is not as bright as people would have thought a few years ago.”


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