Jamesie O’Connor says it’s relevant to claim both Davy Fitzgerald and TJ Ryan’s futures as Clare and Limerick bosses are on the line in Thurles this evening.
Although Fitzgerald claimed a Division 1 title earlier this year, a third consecutive season exiting before the All-reland quarter-finals would see him face intense scrutiny. While Ryan has been under the spotlight since Limerick failed to earn promotion from Division 1B earlier this year, the Munster semi-final defeat to Tipperary only extending the misery.
O’Connor believes all is not so happy in the Limerick camp. “I’m not exactly sure how happy the players are with Dinny Cahill. Behind the scenes, there was a hope they would be able to get Paul Kinnerk. When that didn’t happen, it was a bit late to be looking for a coach. I just think Limerick aren’t sure as to what style they’re trying to play. Maybe it’s a loss of identity.
“Limerick just need to go back and find a way to be Limerick. TJ will certainly come under pressure if they are beaten, not having secured promotion again.
“Davy? To an extent, it will depend on the performance. If we lose and we’re gone again before the quarter-finals there will certainly be rumblings of discontent within the county. Certainly, you could say winning the league he has some credit in the bank but it’s a results-base business and both managers will probably be feeling the pressure on the line.”
O’Connor is fearful the expectations placed on Clare are excessive and coloured by a 2013 All-Ireland win that saw them punch above their weight. “If Conor McGrath doesn’t play, I wouldn’t be at all certain Clare will do enough to win. I think in a sense we have to reevaluate how good Clare are. The reality in 2013 was Kilkenny and Tipperary were both knocked out and there were four counties – ourselves, Cork, Dublin, and Limerick – with the glorious opportunity to nip in and win the All-Ireland. And full credit to our guys, they were the ones that grasped their chance.
“But are we as good as the initial perception? Results over the last couple of years indicate that might not be the case. Should we have achieved more in the three season since? Absolutely. And the championship record simply isn’t good enough but when you look at Kilkenny and Galway last weekend and the physicality they have, the athleticism they have, I’m not sure Clare in their current guise would be able to beat Kilkenny.
“Have we overachieved? We have. These guys are now three years on from winning that All-Ireland and it has to be bitterly disappointing for those guys having had a taste of those big days in Croke Park not to come remotely close to getting back there.
“That said, we didn’t play against Waterford. We made plenty of mistakes in that game. We’re certainly better than that. I’d expect to see a positive response.
“If Clare play to their potential, they will beat Limerick and after that you’re in a quarter-final. You win that and you’ve serious momentum going into Croke Park. From there, anything is possible but at the moment Clare stand behind Kilkenny certainly and Tipp and Waterford in the pecking order.”
O’Connor is leaning towards a Clare win but it’s a hesitant favouring. “Clare-Limerick matches tend to take on a life of their own. From a Clare perspective, it’s the worst possible draw because Clare always bring out the best in Limerick and often it’s the team with the greater edge and motivation (that wins). I go back to the last round of the league when Limerick have expressed the importance of getting back up to 1A and came to Ennis and Clare punctured that balloon. I imagine TJ will be reminding them of that.
“We know what way Clare are likely to play. Limerick will need to be better than they were against Tipperary but if anybody is going to bring them on with their season on the line, it will be Clare.”
As regards the presence of HawkEye for this evening’s qualifier games, unlike the Gaelic Grounds for Sunday’s Munster final, O’Connor said: “From the outside, there is a cost there. If the authorities felt it was imperative to have HawkEye for a game of this magnitude (Munster final), they’d say ‘we’re fixing the game for Thurles and that’s it’. But the decision was made and you can understand the reasoning for Waterford not to go to Thurles.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved