Skill triumphs in victory for Clare’s underlying class
Davy Fitzgerald’s team made hurling look an easy game
Clare team silenced the huge Limerick crowd early
You have to hand it to Davy Fitzgerald. It wasn’t just about his team tactics; it was about the awareness of touch hurling and the awareness of skill on the ball that his men showed in manufacturing a thoroughly deserved win.
These Clare players are very young in terms of age but they’re very experienced and hardened in hurling terms. And where better place to showcase this than on one of the biggest stages – in an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park – against their next door neighbours? Clare were the far better team from the word go.
After the excitement of all the other championship matches, and especially after the first semi-final with Cork and Dublin, we expected this one to go down to the wire. It didn’t. It was over early, mainly because the touch of the Clare players was so much better and also because of the mistakes made by Limerick throughout the field. They seemed nervy and on edge and this nervousness manifested itself particularly in poor free-taking and also by the failure to take a number of point-scoring opportunities. When they needed to find a rhythm, those misses only served to hamper them and created panic.
You can’t deny that the missed frees from Declan Hannon militated against Limerick but also destroyed his confidence in general play. He missed three frees and a 65 in that first-half and you’ve got to wonder about the decision not to have Shane Dowling on the pitch. The tactic of leaving him on the bench worked against Tipperary and against Cork but not here. It proved, yet again, as it did in last week’s semi-final and in both of the quarter-finals, how hugely important it is to have a free-taker in the side. Hannon was even tasked with taking – and unfortunately missing – another free after Dowling was introduced.
Yet, we must remember that when Dowling was introduced, he had two fresh airs when taking a sideline cut. It was untypical of him and symptomatic of the edginess that ran throughout the Limerick team.
Clare were the better hurlers from the word go. You can’t take it away from them. David McInerney was outstanding at full back. He is a colossus for a young man, as good a full back potentially as we’ve ever seen in the game. He wasn’t alone by any means. Goalkeeper Patrick Kelly produced a great save when called on and the half-back line – Pat Donnellan and Patrick O’Connor getting their opening points – was totally dominant. Colm Galvin and Conor Ryan never missed a beat in midfield and the performances of Podge Collins and Tony Kelly in an impressive attacking unit emphasised that Clare were the better hurlers.