Great escape veils Clare hurling unrest

Clare 2-22, Dublin 2-20:

We are ‘110%’ sure the Clare hurlers are not into double standards when it comes to team discipline, but what exactly Davy Fitzgerald’s standard is remains a mystery.

On more than one occasion the Clare manager declined the opportunity with the written press to distance himself from Davy O’Halloran’s accusations that he left the Clare squad because of a three-week punishment that left him “humiliated”.

Instead, Fitzgerald hit out at the people who “write stories” about him and “guys who wants to create” panic. He insisted he treats players fairly in disciplinary matters.

“We as a management would be very fair in what we do. There is rules there, that’s it. And listen, I am very, very happy that we have done everything correct and I know the players are as well, that they are very happy with that as well,” said Fitzgerald.

Earlier, he told RTÉ Radio: “They are not bad lads but we are 100% certain that we do things by the book and there is a set of rules there and that is the way it is and they were implemented. That’s all it was and I will not be saying one other word apart from that.”

When quizzed if every player is treated the same, the Clare boss was adamant: “I am 110% certain of that. And after this comment I will not be bringing it up again.

“People can write what they want to write, there’s no problem, no hassle with that. I’ve said now what I’m going to say and that’s it. If you want to talk about today’s game, I’m more than delighted, I’ve said all I’m going to say. Ye are making the deal out of it, not me.”

The after-match media circus and Clare’s impressive last 20 minutes will probably mask the desperate fare they produced for the opening 50 minutes. At times they failed to execute simple stick and hand passes, they shot 10 wides and looked short of the hunger require for a national league game. Quite how they managed to get within two points of a rampant Dublin at half-time is a mystery.

Dublin, on the other hand, must ask themselves how they didn’t win this game against the 14-man Banner after Brendan Bugler was shown a straight red card a minute before half-time for an off-the-ball incident, on the advice of an umpire.

With Liam Rushe rampant at full forward, Danny Sutcliffe sublime at wing forward and their defence on top, the metropolitans looked in control thanks to Cian Boland’s sixth-minute goal.

“The disappointment is that we put ourselves in a position to win the game,” said Dublin manager Ger Cunningham, whose side were much better than in last Saturday’s 11-point defeat to Cork.

“I thought we improved on last week, put ourselves in a good position to win but we seemed to lose our shape in the second half, and Clare got the momentum going, as they can do, got the crowd behind them, and got ahead.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to know with the extra man, do you push up the field, or protect what you have? And sometimes players aren’t sure. They were getting some good ball into Shane O’Donnell, who was very good, very effective today.”

O’Donnell was definitely the only Clare man to impress throughout. When his side was struggling, he fought the hard battles and despite his slight frame, looks to be a most effective target man.

But after he moved to midfield for the second half, Tony Kelly took over for Clare. They were fortunate that John Conlon’s mis-hit shot found the net from distance just before half-time, but there was no doubt about Kelly’s goal four minutes from the end that finally gave Clare breathing room.

Five points from Conor McGrath was crucial, and corner back David McInerney did a lot to quell the influence of Rushe when switched on to him midway through the first half, so for him to bring the home support to their feet with their final point from his own 45 was fitting.

Fitzgerald added: “The pleasing thing was there were times when we were down six and seven points and with 14 guys we didn’t throw in the towel. Lads have been a bit tense the past couple of weeks because, I suppose, some of you guys (the media) talking about us not winning a game is unreal because we could easily be sitting on four points at this stage, maybe even six. If you ask the lads inside, they will tell you that the team talk was the calmest I ever gave. Pressure? I don’t really read too much, I tell the lads we don’t really bother with the media. We don’t read or listen to too much. The important thing is we just do what we do for each other. We might lose the next game or two and I don’t know what’ll happen. I’ve a fantastic bunch of players there who are committed to Clare hurling.”

Without any competitive win since this time last year, Clare — and their manager — needed this late rally. Fitzgerald’s side did their talking on the pitch, but there is still plenty to be addressed off it.

Scorers for Clare: T Kelly (1-9, 7 frees); J Conlon (1-4, 2fs); C McGrath (0-5); A Cunningham, P Donnellan, D Reidy, D McInerney (0-1).

Scorers for Dublin: D O’Callaghan (1-4), P Ryan (0-5, 5fs), L Rushe (0-4), C Boland (1-0), M Schutte (0-3); D Sutcliffe, C Crummy, S Barrett, B Quinn (0-1)

Subs for Clare: D Reidy for Golden (43); J Browne for O’Connor (52); D O’Donovan for Flanagan (67); B Duggan for Cunningham (70).

Subs for Dublin: N Corcoran for Carton (28); B Quinn for Cronin (55); C Keaney for Corcoran (60); E Dillon for Sutcliffe (64).

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

Clare: D Tuohy; P Flanagan, C Dillon, D McInerney; B Bugler, C Ryan, P O’Connor; P Donnellan, C Galvin; J Conlon, T Kelly, S Golden; C McGrath, S O’Donnell, A Cunningham. Dublin: A Nolan; C O’Callaghan, M Carton, P Schutte; C Crummy, P Kelly, S Barrett; C Cronin, S Durkin; D Sutcliffe, P Ryan, M Schutte; D O’Callaghan, L Rushe, C Boland.


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