On a weekend when some were proclaiming the ‘death of gaelic football’ on social media, Kilkenny and Clare produced the type of fare which proves that hurling is in rude health.
The contrast between the dire Saturday night encounter between Dublin and Derry in the Allianz Football League and the wonderful fare on offer in Nowlan Park on Sunday could not have been greater.
As an illustration of the difference between both codes at present, the free count in the Kilkenny-Clare game compared to the Kerry-Monaghan football game tells its own story. There were 58 frees awarded in Austin Stack Park while in contrast there were only four frees awarded in the first half between Clare and Kilkenny — and just 12 in total.
That’s a difference of 46 frees — it’s stats like these that must surely force the administrators of the game to re-examine the rules of gaelic football once more.
While Clare will be playing Division 1B hurling next year that should not be a huge issue for the Banner men. In Tony Kelly and Shane O’Donnell they possess two of the best forwards in the game.
Davy Fitz got his tactics spot on against Kilkenny. Clare’s tackle rate was superb, they opened up the area in front of O’Donnell and he ran riot, scoring 1-3 and creating a further six scores.
TJ Reid, O’Donnell, Richie Hogan and Tony Kelly were the four best hurlers on view on Sunday. Indeed Kelly’s display, where he shot seven points from play, will hardly be bettered in 2015.
That is not to say that Brian Cody was tactically naive in letting O’Donnell run riot. Cody will point to another win against the odds, another triumph for belief and hunger. The most telling stat of all from Sunday’s encounter was 19 turnovers against Clare. This is where Cody and Kilkenny are masters, forcing their opponents into mistakes. It was one of those errors, a loose clearance by keeper Pa Kelly, which created Kilkenny’s winning score. Make no mistake about it, both Kilkenny and Clare are in fine fettle ahead of the championship and the same can be said of Ger Cunningham’s Dublin.
The former Cork keeper had done a terrific job in the capital. On Saturday evening against Limerick, Cunningham’s Dublin ticked all the boxes, winning two thirds of the puck outs on offer, 60% of possession and they also out-tackled their opponents on the day. It sets up a return match against Cunningham’s native county, Cork, in the semi-final. After Dublin’s poor performance against the Rebels in Croke Park in the group stages, expect this encounter to be much closer.
As for TJ Ryan’s Limerick the only way is up after a complete non-performance. Limerick’s opening round Munster championship encounter with Clare is just over eight weeks away and they have an awful lot of work to do to be as competitive as they were in the past couple of seasons.
Ryan will look to a low tackle rate and a low possession rate as two key areas where improvements need to be made. However, it was arguably Derek McGrath’s Waterford who impressed the most over the weekend.
With some bookmakers giving odds of 8/1 against a Waterford Munster Final win, the smart money could very well be placed on the Déise in 2015.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved