Allen at a loss to explain why Limerick failed to perform
Limerick manager concedes ‘the better team won, that goes without saying’
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is congratulated by Limerick manager John Allen after the semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The last thing John Allen needed was any reminder of what went wrong. The slack, nervous touches. The near complete loss of composure, and form. The numerous frees, dropping like badly misfired cannons, left and right of their intended target, and without any need for Hawkeye.
As if Allen could then provide a tidy snippet to explain it all. Because no matter how many faults surfaced in Limerick’s game they all added up to the same inescapable truth.
“The better team won, that goes without saying,” Allen conceded, with typically grace. “We never got a hold on the game, and you’d have to say we were chasing the game all the way.”
It’s not that Limerick weren’t nervous: it’s just that Allen never sensed any nerves, until the nerves were already beginning to shred hopelessly.
“I didn’t notice anything before the game, our preparation was similar, and the atmosphere in the dressing-room was good. There wasn’t a tangible tension around the players.
“Maybe the fact that we were chasing the game unnerved fellas. We weren’t winning in the half-forwards or midfield, our backs were under pressure. Then they got the goal, and it looked like we were nervous, then.
“But I didn’t foresee that. And I didn’t see any evidence of arrogance or fellas not preparing themselves mentally like they did for the last game. I don’t think hype was an issue either but I don’t know definitively, either.”
Nor is it that Limerick’s form dropped with any prior warning: everything was going well in training, although in hindsight – and just like Dublin realised against Cork the week before – a five-week break since winning a provincial title is a slow curse to momentum.
“I wouldn’t use it as an excuse,” said Allen, “it’s not an excuse, but it certainly isn’t ideal. Whatever momentum you have you do lose. I mean if you were talking about the Premiership there and there were five weeks between games, sure form goes out the window as such. How do you keep players in that form? Whatever confidence they had coming off the Munster final is way gone. Again it’s not an excuse but it’s certainly not ideal. It’s too long.”
What definitely wasn’t ideal was the sight of Declan Hannon missing free after free in the first half (four in all), when Limerick simply could not afford to surrender any more of an advantage to Clare. Allen didn’t deny the ultimate cost of those misses, but he defended the decision to both start Hannon, and wait until the 32nd minute to introduce Shane Dowling, who converted all six of his placed balls in the second half.
Allen also fended off pre-match criticism not to start Dowling – including from this newspaper’s hurling analyst Nicky English, who wrote on Saturday that “not starting your best free-taker is taking a chance”.