Tuesday. August 7th. Two days after Galway summoned the energy in the final exchanges to advance to the All Ireland Senior Hurling final and extinguish Clare’s Liam McCarthy hopes for this year. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the fixture.
Clare left to rue defensive start
With the breeze at their backs, Clare we presumed would look to set the platform against an opponent noted for their game winning starts. It failed to materialize in the first twenty minutes of the contest as Galway helped by the astute tactical switches (Coen on Galvin, Mannion as sweeper, Cooney back to wing back) made the early running and opened up a decisive lead which Clare never managed to crawl back. Clare did respond in the final ten minutes of the opening period with good points from the likes of Kelly, O’Donnell, Collins and free taking of Duggan but the opening exchanges were a decisive factor in the outcome as Clare struggled to contend with Galway’s tempo and physicality early for the second consecutive weekend.
The Glynn Factor
Galway’s decision to deploy Jonathan Glynn on the edge of the square has reaped massive dividends this season. His cameo against Kilkenny in the Leinster SHC replay set the platform for victory. His threat was known by Clare after their first encounter but given time and space, Galway clinically exposed Clare defensively with Glynn’s goal in the opening period which will have Limerick on high alert.
Glynn’s threat in the air opens the field for his colleagues, his ability to win 50/50 ball seen with the emphatic catch and strike from close range giving Tuohy no chance. Glynn will look for more distribution against Limerick and it will be interesting to see how John Kiely and management counteract the threat. Glynn has being a pivotal player for Galway’s inside forward line down the stretch; expect more of the same from the Ardrahan native on August 19th.
Joe Canning Leadership
Galway’s early lead was gradually being eroded as Clare started to impress in the middle third exchanges. A superb goal from Shane O’Donnell early in the second half set the platform and Galway needed someone to provide the composure and scoring to get the side in front.
Joe Canning yet again produced the goods; his work rate without the ball was incredible and his striking from frees and open play was sublime; his sideline cut and the point where he improvised with the sliothar to hit off his stick was one of the scores of the day. Canning’s leadership when other attacking options were losing their composure with some poor shot selection shone through again and Clare were unable to stop the talisman.
Clare Shot Selection
The game tape for Clare will have being horrendous yesterday; the side had more than enough chances to win this contest but there were some terrible wides particularly in that second half. Duggan’s free taking which was so on point in the contest saw two opportunities missed; the latter was a bitter blow as a Galway hurl blocked the free going over and relieving the pressure. Clare’s shot selection to hit ambitious efforts from long range was questionable given the joy that O’Donnell, Ian Galvin, Aron Shanagher were having in that second half.
The two Galway corner backs had their hands full and a bit more precise quick ball inside could have swayed this fixture to Clare. Each wide from Clare was a momentum boost for Galway. Clare have the fitness, mobility and hurling skill to get back to the summit but until this facet of play is improved upon, there will be more days like this at the business end of the season.
Where is his favored position? Kelly continually looked to play deep at the replay; look at the last play of the game, he was back in his full back line collecting the ball and hitting long hoping for an equalizer. Surely the player should have being further up the park to receive the sliothar and ask questions of Galway defensively.
Kelly scored 0-1 during the contest. Galway had done their homework with Coen stuck to Kelly for long period negating his influence. Kelly relishes the freedom in the middle third but at times, his influence is significantly reduced by retreating further into Clare defensive areas of the pitch. Galway loved this particularly at the death.
Galway fall over the line
The result can be viewed with two schools of thought: a performance full of determination and grit to get past a tricky opponent, a performance of champions. The other school of thought is a side who were on fumes at the end of the contest and dodged a loss due to lack of composure from their opponents.
The squad depth attacking options of Galway used was interesting; Jason Flynn and Niall Burke were the only attacking options introduced and raises questions on management’s confidence on the other attacking threats in the squad (some standout players).
Galway were reluctant to change things up even when Clare had their dominant spell in the third quarter. Galway defensively were heroic in the second half. Daithi Burke, Padraic Mannion provided such solid platform and were assisted by Harte and Joseph Cooney who reveled in the wing back assignment.
Limerick’s attacking options off the bench will pose problems for Galway if this final is on the line going into the final quarter. Davy Glennon made a brief cameo at the death to replace the exhausted Glynn but four substitutions compared to Clare’s five who had sufficient cameos to impress was interesting.