Corcoran says Duggan’s return gives Clare a valuable extra option

Wexford coach believes improving Banner are a potent force and the former All-Star’s presence helps them vary their game plan to telling effect

We could easily be sitting here talking to Niall Corcoran about Wexford’s All-Ireland semi-final preparations, about how they plan to take down Kilkenny.

Instead, it’s a discussion about their old foes, Clare, and how the Munster finalists might fare at Croke Park this Saturday afternoon.

Corcoran, the Galway native and former Dublin defender who is now coaching Wexford, was pretty much powerless to prevent his side from relinquishing a six-point lead against Clare with barely 10 minutes to go in Thurles earlier this month.

Clare won by four in the end, a 10-point swing on the scoreboard that left Wexford supporters with that most familiar of feelings, defeat to Clare in a knock-out championship game.

It was the third year running that their season ended with defeat to Clare, the fourth time in five seasons, so who better to assess the Banner County’s All-Ireland semi-final credentials than the Wexford coach.

One of the big differences with Clare this year, from Corcoran’s perspective, is the return of 2018 championship top scorer and All-Star Peter Duggan, the powerhouse full forward starting all six of their summer games and registering 1-22 having missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

“I think having the likes of Peter Duggan back is a real game-changer,” said Corcoran, speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland Sevens series where Beacon Hospital was announced as the title sponsor.

“He’s a real focal point now for them in attack. They can go long and he’s a big handful in there. I think players like Ryan Taylor, for example, have really developed too. And Rory Hayes, another fine defender.

“They’ve found a really good style where they can play it short and play it long. Again, that’s where Peter Duggan in there gives them something extra.

“They’re comfortable on the ball. They like to play off the shoulder but now they have the option to go long and deep because of Peter Duggan, Ian Galvin, guys like that are there. Shane O’Donnell seems to be involved not so much as a finisher now but as a real worker, a real ball winner for them. I think David Fitzgerald too, he’s really developed again this year.”

Corcoran, a Leinster SHC winner with Dublin in 2013, said Wexford got joy from going direct to their full-forward line against Clare, a tactic he believes Kilkenny may replicate on Saturday.

“Maybe that’ll suit the traditional Kilkenny style,” he said, explaining how Wexford shifted Lee Chin to full-forward for the second half against Clare because of a hamstring injury.

“We would have used Lee around the pitch but because of his hammer we just left him in there at full-forward and it just happened to work out. It definitely wasn’t a tactical masterstroke. It’ll be interesting to see if Kilkenny replicate that. Clare are constantly getting better and they’re still learning. I’ve no doubt they’re going to have a plan for that possibility and maybe they might rejig their backs a small bit to be ready if Kilkenny go that way.”

Wexford’s Shane Reck largely kept tabs on Tony Kelly though the Clare icon burst into life late on, helped by Reck’s injury-enforced withdrawal.

“Sure you’re never going to keep Tony Kelly quiet for the full game,” shrugged Corcoran. “That ball he caught near the end, falling to the ground and then he had it over the bar in seconds, that’s just class and you have to allow for the fact that he’s going to score those.”

Meelick-Eyrecourt man Corcoran first hit the inter-county scene with his native Galway, playing in the 2000 All-Ireland minor final win over Cork, before later transferring to Dublin.

He reckons the pressure is off for Henry Shefflin’s Tribesmen ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick and has tipped them to play with freedom.

“If I was a player myself I’d love this game because you’re written off and you can just have a pop and those are the games where you produce your best at times,” he said.

“I suppose if I put myself into the shoes of the likes of a Cathal Mannion or a Padraic Mannion, they’re going to say, not that it’s a free shot, but we have a chance here, we’re not going to be favourites for the game and yet I think Galway are a team where physically they can match Limerick.

“Whether they have the pace, because Limerick have the pace, but physically they can go toe to toe with Limerick. I think what they will need is just to get more forwards on to the scoreboard. This reliance on Conor Whelan, I’m sure Henry and the lads are working on that.”

* Players from 32 counties and four codes are gearing up to bring their passion to the pitch this year, as the All-Ireland 7s Series was officially launched, with Beacon Hospital announced as the title sponsor.