Cork and Dublin showings prove this is an open championship
Clare will be disappointed as it’s certainly taken a twist this past weekend
Clare’s Pádraic Collins reacts after missing one of his side’s goal scoring chance against Cork. The misses cost them the game. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered the art of bi-location. So, whilst Cork were yesterday emphatically defeating Clare before my eyes in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick in a one-sided, disappointing Munster semi-final, the word that filtered through to my ears that Dublin had drawn with Kilkenny in Portlaoise in the Leinster semi-final only served to re-affirm my view that this year’s championship could probably be the most open in years.
To be honest, I expected Dublin to run Kilkenny close. To be even more honest, however, I didn’t expect them to get as close as they did. Getting a draw against the All-Ireland champions is a fine result for Anthony Daly’s team but the greater significance is that the gap between Kilkenny and the rest is not as much as some people think.
The weekend results proved the championship is an open one, with plenty of shocks still in store and plenty of competitive games ahead of us.
Unfortunately yesterday’s Munster semi-final wasn’t so competitive, however. Clare were extremely disappointing, failed to take goal-scoring chances, were prone to errors – especially in defence – and tried to over-complicate matters.
Cork, though, made a statement of intent. It just shows that the league doesn’t always tell the whole story. Cork were clearly deserving winners, played the much simpler hurling and had plenty of skill up front to do the job. I thought the fact that Pa Cronin, Lorcan McLoughlin and Paudie O’Sullivan were missing would impact hugely on them but, as it turned out, their forwards showed a lot of class and answered the call in considerable style.
A number of them were very impressive. Séamus Harnedy epitomised the Cork approach. He double-jobbed: not only did he score three points, but he also kept Brendan Bugler quiet. Harnedy was part of a Cork half-forward line that didn’t allow the Clare half-backs to make the desired impact. Cian McCarthy also did very well and Conor Lehane, who was actually well-held for much of the match by Patrick O’Connor, did eventually come into it.
Luke O’Farrell continues to look a really good player. Every time the ball went into the full-forward line, he and Patrick Horgan looked dangerous. Jamie Coughlan, too, played well when he came on and, with Cronin and possibly McLoughlin to come back into the side for the Munster final with Limerick, I’m sure Jimmy Barry will be very pleased with the team’s development.
Clare were very disappointing. They collapsed in the second-half. The defensive errors which were evident in some of their league matches and in the championship win over Waterford returned to haunt them here. They tried to run the ball of defence so often in the second half and, time and time again, the play broke down. Their short game simply didn’t work. They tried to play a very complicated game and, really, the result proved that it is hard to beat simple hurling.