Maybe Cork need to get lucky – but they are lucky
Having seen their opponents miraculously survive the drawn match, Clare will wonder what exactly they have to do to win
Clare’s Darach Honan will be looking to make more of an impression against Shane O’Neill in today’s All-Ireland final replay. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
After the draw the main feeling was that Clare were simply the better team and that Cork had been unbelievably lucky. They needed goals, which they hadn’t been getting all year, and yet they nearly won. Clare were lucky to get the extra 30 seconds for the equaliser but Cork needed to be lucky for longer than that.
Immediately after the game I switched totally to Clare for the replay. On the evidence we’d seen in the drawn match, they were a better team and it was illogical to believe that Cork could win.
At this stage though, I’ve come around again to the view that it’s anyone’s. Clare were absolutely magnificent and – even if they got caught for goals from out of nowhere – playing in orthodox formation they were on top in every line of the field.
Maybe they could have saved one of the three goals – the goalkeeper could have done better for Lehane’s – but then again maybe Cork could have scored another from either the other 20-metre free or the penalty.
They were unlucky to be playing 15 instead of 14 and but for a couple of wides from Colin Ryan and Conor McGrath and the missed goal chance for Podge Collins, Clare would have buried Cork altogether. Can they repeat such an outstanding performance?
Davy Fitzgerald took a bit of stick for not reverting to a sweeper system when Clare went ahead but I disagree with that. They were winning in all but two positions, why would you change the formation? My belief in relation to tactics is simple: when enough of your players (usually nine, with a bit of luck) are beating their men, you should win.
Clare just weren’t able to bang in the last few nails, a lot like my first year with Tipp in 1999 when we had a draw with Ger Loughnane’s Clare. We had a lot of young players, who hit the high spots and should have won. One of our debutants was quoted afterwards as saying that it had been ‘enjoyable’; in other words championship hurling was easier than anticipated.
In Clare, meanwhile, some of the greatest players ever had a week of self examination and being castigated by supporters and management. They came out and hammered us in the replay.
In the past couple of weeks Clare have had a procession of an All-Ireland under-21 win and I’m not sure the effect of this will have been as positive as many appear to think.
It didn’t have the healthiest impact on Tipperary back in 2010 and although the Clare lads are sensible and used to combining senior and under-21 matches, I think Davy will have his work cut out to get them back to earth after all the ovations.
Clare have had to cope with the knowledge that they played superbly in the drawn match, have had an All-Ireland celebration in between and maybe the nagging feeling: what have we to do to win this thing?