Former Clare captain Sean Stack has major reservations about both Limerick and Clare as they prepare to square up to one another on Saturday in the All-Ireland Hurling Qualifiers.
Stack, who previously managed Limerick kingpins Na Piarsaigh, can’t understand why more of the All-Ireland club champions aren’t being started by TJ Ryan, while he has questioned if the tactics used by Clare suit the number of high quality players at their disposal.
The presence of Ronan Lynch in the Limerick intermediate team to face Clare in this evening’s Munster final is something Stack finds peculiar.
“Being objective, I’m so surprised TJ isn’t going with more of the new lads. Na Piarsaigh have dominated club hurling in Limerick, won Munster and the All-Ireland and yet they only have two starting against Westmeath (Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes).
“Why Ronan Lynch isn’t there is a mystery. He’s as good and as influential player as I have ever seen. There could be things going on in the camp we don’t know about so maybe I’m not qualified to talk about it but looking at things from the outside in, it’s so surprising.” Lynch, man of the match for Limerick’s U21s against Cork last week, is one of several young players Stack would like to see started. Ryan handed a bevy of SHC debuts in the defeat to Tipperary last month but the Sixmilebridge man would have preferred had he stuck with them.
“So few of the All-Ireland U21 winning team have come to the fore. I learned from Cork’s experience in the late 90s when they got destroyed by Clare in ’98. Jimmy Barry-Murphy said he had made a mistake in going with the status quo. He said you have to build your own team and he brought in a raft of U21s and they ended up winning an All-Ireland the year after.
“But it has to be their team. This senior Limerick team still isn’t those U21s’ team yet. The likes of James Ryan, Gavin O’Mahony, and Graeme Mulcahy are still there. It’s almost like the U21s are gatecrashing.
“Usually, managers like that bring their own stamp to a panel and those players can bring more of a tightness to the group. TJ may have made a mistake in not doing that. He is a great hurling man and a really good guy but by not making that sort of statement he could be making the same error Jimmy Barry-Murphy made of sticking with too many established players.” Stack fancies his native county to edge Limerick but does not believe Clare are getting the best out of their players either with their style of hurling.
“There has never been a bunch of players as high quality as this group in Clare. The raft of forwards Clare have now is just incredible but they have to be hurling in the danger areas to hurt teams and they can’t do that playing 80 to 100 yards out from goal. Colin McGrath playing 80 or 90 yards away, Tony Kelly complementing a defence, David Reidy, a great hurler, playing as an extra half-back... it defies logic.” According to Stack, Clare’s style is turning off followers. “Their game isn’t attractive, for all the so many good players they have. Like, a goalkeeper pucking a ball to a defender and then looking for the pass back, it’s not pretty.
“I was with nine ex-inter-county players when Clare drew with Waterford in the league final and only one of the nine said they’d come back to watch the replay, it was so difficult to watch.
“Of my era, none of us would hold boots to the players now in terms of their ability and talented but I feel it’s going to be wasted.”
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