A four year wait for a Munster SHC win has ended for Clare as they advanced to the provincial final with a four point over a naive, inconsistent Limerick at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
Clare inside forward line pounce on naive Limerick defending
A day where Shane O’Donnell re-announced his name to hurling fans with a 2-2 haul. O’Donnell has had some difficult afternoons for Clare since his memorable 2013 All Ireland Final replay hat-trick but yesterday the Ennis native pounced to put Clare well in control of this contest.
O’Donnell was sharp throughout and exposed Richie McCarthy with his pace, taking the full back well out of position. The opening goal was a disastrous defensive effort from Limerick. Who apportions blame is anyone’s guess but the indecisive shout from either Limerick goalkeeper Nicky Quaid and full back Richie McCarthy proved fatal as the ball broke to O’Donnell to pull the ball to the net.
A vital score in the context of the contest as Limerick had started the game well. Two excellent frees from Shane Dowling giving the Shannonsiders an early two point advantage but once the O’Donnell opening goal was scored, Clare built confidence and exposed Limerick defensively.
The second goal was not long in coming. Naive defending some may say as Richie McCarthy was exposed a long way out from goal and with no back cover (perhaps a corner back should have sensed the danger), O’Donnell strode unopposed to dispatch easily past Quaid in the Limerick goals.
It was schoolboy defending. Limerick in the full back line were having a torrid time as Conor McGrath was starting to impose his influence on proceedings and finished the game with a haul of 1-3. Shanagher as well was posing problems with his pace.
The third goal for Clare put the final nail into Limerick’s coffin. Defensively all at sea, zero communication between back line and goalkeeper allowed Conor McGrath the easiest of tasks to flick the ball into the Limerick net. Three naive goal concessions, a goalkeeper clearly rattled not prepared to marshal his square and the goal put paid to any ambitions Limerick had of victory.
Clare have being criticized in the past (including this blog) for not scoring enough goals but it was a productive afternoon for the Banner County as ball distribution was quick and decisive for periods when Clare were on top.
John Conlon in the half-forward line was prominent in ball carries and scored a couple of excellent points. Galvin and Reidy in midfield provided six points in the afternoon. The goal chances were created with ease so tougher tests will loom large starting with the Munster SHC final.
Limerick were their own worse enemy
Frustration is the key word coming from the county today after this latest provincial defeat. The mistakes from last season were seen to full effect again yesterday and one starts to wonder when will this team ever learn the error of their ways?
Let us be honest. The defending at times was naive and that is being kind. The decision to include Richie McCarthy as full back disastrously back fired. No fault tothe player but lack of pace was ruthlessly exposed. Casey in the corner had a difficult afternoon and will have better days in the jersey. Finn was the standout player in the back line. His timely interceptions in the second half may have seen Clare score easily five or six goals on the day.
The half-back line had a mixed afternoon. Hannan at half-back was exposed for pace at times but did compete well in aerial exchanges. Dan Morrissey grew into the contest but was shaky in the opening fifteen minute period like Seamus Hickey. The absence of Diarmuid Byrnes was too much to bear. No drive coming from this line.
The midfield area was a mixed bag. Ryan and Browne work rate was unquestionable but distribution at times from this area of the pitch to the inside forward line was poor. The shot selection at times from this area also left a lot to be desired. Eleven wides in the opening period told its own story with several hail mary efforts for good measure.
The forward line had flashes of promise like the side overall but the consistency in quality work was not there for the full seventy minutes. David Dempsey hit a nice 1-02, an opportunistic goal before the interval but his influence was sporadic at best.
Dowling was superb on placed balls but was not a factor in open play. Cian Lynch chipped in with 0-02 from play but was snuffed out by an efficient Clare half-back and midfield performance. Lynch has all the skills but struggled to find any space to assert dominance.
Graeme Mulcahy unfortunately was snuffed out throughout the opening period, not mentioned much. Nash came on and provided much needed pace to the line. Peter Casey learned plenty about what intercounty hurling was about yesterday; struggled to get into proceedings and was a non-factor in general open play. Better days from the youngster but it was a harsh lesson in terms of the physicality and work rate required at this level.
The standout performer for Limerick was full forward Kyle Hayes. The player who was a standout for the minors last season attempted to lead from the front. His ability to win his own 50/50 ball (something other Limerick forwards failed to do) was admirable and his scoring tally of 1-01 was just reward for a performance of persistence. His point from sideline was an excellent score. His goal was a great effort. One for the future and something for Limerick to build on going forward.
Apart from Finn and Hayes, there was no other players who caught the eye for Limerick and for some of the veterans in the panel, it was perhaps another sign to reflect on their county careers come the end of the season.
Self-inflicted wounds and lack of consistent performance in the NHL was to the fore again. No lessons learned and management must begin to see the issues at play with the squad. An early summer exit beckons for Limerick given the caliber of opposition looming large in the qualifier series next month.
Clare plenty to improve upon
A four point win for Clare. A win which has lifted a massive burden off the shoulders of the Clare playing panel after the ousting of Davy Fitzgerald last season. The side were inconsistent like Limerick yesterday but did not produce as many clangers as Limerick did to win out. In truth, Clare should have really put Limerick easily to the sword and on another day, a ten point win could have being on the cards.
Clare management will be delighted to advance to the provincial final but several issues reared their head. The goalkeeping position looks up for grabs after a less than convincing display from Fahy whose puckout distribution was poor and was far from comfortable with general keeping gifting an opening goal to Dempsey (coughed up a daisy cutter from Lynch). Limerick had sufficient quality to expose this fatal flaw. Other teams will not be as forgiving.
The full back line to their credit was excellent despite the shaky goalkeeping behind them. Morey, McInerney and O’Connor gave little away but Limerick’s decision to move forwards out the field played into their hands. Only Hayes provided any issues for Clare defensively inside.
The half back line had a good outing. Cleary at half-back was strong under the dropping ball and snuffed out the threat of Lynch. O’Connell and Fitzgerald were efficient throughout. The absence of Hegarty in the half-forward line aiding the advantage for Clare in the aerial exchanges. Limerick’s lack of primary ball winner was coming home to roost.
The midfield partnership was excellent. Galvin is such a classy hurler and with David Reidy providing pace and attacking support, the line had a good afternoon causing Browne and Ryan several issues during this contest.
The major issue coming out of yesterday’s encounter was the performance of Tony Kelly who looked flat throughout. His penalty miss at the death summed up a miserable afternoon and one wonders if all the club / college commitments at the start of this year have yet again caught up with the player. For Clare to realistically win the provincial title, Kelly needs to be a major player. He was a peripheral figure yesterday. Food for thought for Clare management.
The lack of consistent performance plagued both sides throughout. Clare after a dominant opening twenty minutes retreated and allowed Limerick to build a platform which resulted in the sides being level with five minutes of the opening period remaining. Clare management were quick to praise the team’s immediate response and hitting the front again but the lack of consistent tempo is a worry.
The same symptoms reared its head for Clare after McGrath’s goal in the second half. Clare took their foot off the gas and on another day, another more primed opponent would have punished the team. This contest was a far cry from the classic between Cork and Tipperary two weeks ago; the shot selection and free misses were poor and a repeat will spell defeat for the Banner.
Opening test passed. Munster Final to look forward to but massive improvement is required from Clare to win provincial honors particularly as I do not think either Cork or Waterford will be as naive and charitable in the goal concessions like Limerick yesterday. Well done Clare but Limerick aided their victory massively.