Nash weapon may be neutralised but Cork still have plenty in their armoury
The chance to avenge last year’s All-Ireland defeat will have Cork champing at the bit in Thurles
Conor Lehane clears Clare’s John Conlon out of the picture as Anthony Nash makes his way up the field to take a penalty during last year’s drawn All-Ireland final. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Paul Flynn, the former Waterford All Star and during his career one of the deadliest free takers in hurling, summed up the drama of an Anthony Nash penalty. He was in Semple Stadium last Sunday when Cork’s Patrick Cronin was fouled close to goal by Waterford’s Liam Lawlor.
“There’s no question that in the stands last Sunday when Cork were awarded the penalty,” says Flynn, “everyone that was reading a programme or looking at their phone put away the programme or the phone and got excited about the fact that Nash was on his way down the field.”
During the week the GAA has moved to bring down the curtain on this particular piece of theatre amidst rising concerns about the health and safety of defenders on the line so no-one will be allowed to flick the ball forward from penalties and 20-metre frees and chase the dropping ball in the hope of making a thunderous connection some seven metres – at least – closer to goal.
It would have been hard to imagine last autumn in the aftermath of the two stunning All-Ireland finals between Cork and Clare that their eventual reunion in this year’s Munster hurling semi-final, tomorrow in Thurles, would come packaged in even further drama.
There’s irony in Nash and his contentious dead-ball technique being back in the news because it was in last year’s All-Ireland final and replay that it came fully to prominence – even if the publicity is now about the prohibition on the Cork goalkeeper’s ingenious initiative.
Last year, he was one of the key personalities during his team’s at times unlikely march towards the All-Ireland and he was shortlisted for the Hurler of the Year award.
He was never terribly comfortable with the routine association between himself and the technique: frees, motions to congress and reinterpretation of rules all became eponymous connections with ‘Anthony Nash’.
“I get the impression he’s just relieved that the whole controversy has been resolved for the time being,” his manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy told this newspaper.
“At the end of the day he’s a goalkeeper and was getting tired of all the fuss surrounding the frees.”
The clarification or new interpretation fast-tracked by Central Council into operation for this weekend’s matches became a matter of urgency after Nash had been accosted by his Waterford counterpart Stephen O’Keeffe rushing off the line in last week’s quarter-final replay. Forcing the issue even further was the peculiar – and hitherto little known – reimagining of the rule by the referees that validated O’Keeffe’s actions.
It’s characteristic of Barry-Murphy to make the best of trying circumstances. After all this was someone who, having seen his team deprived of an All-Ireland by indulgent time-keeping – however much of a conjuror’s trick that might have been – had the heroic forbearance to go on television immediately and declare himself relieved with the draw and acknowledge that Clare had been the better side.