Selector Louis Mulqueen says Banner flying in right direction
‘You can’t underestimate John Allen and what he’s done with Cork and what he’s now done with Limerick’
Manager Davy Fitzgerald and selector Louis Mulqueen at the coalface during the Munster semi-final win over Tipperary. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Louis Mulqueen, selector with Davy Fitzgerald’s management team has been at the coalface of Clare hurling for three decades, preparing teams. He has served with Len Gaynor, Ger Loughnane, Cyril Lyons and now Fitzgerald. So the Ennis man is in a perfect position to assess the Banner’s chances, in the do-or-die All-Ireland semi-final clash against neighbours Limerick, at Croke Park on Sunday.
“To put it in context, Limerick could arguably have played two of the best games of the current championship. They beat a very strong Tipperary team and then they beat Cork in a Munster final,” he stated.
“So obviously they are going well. They play strong with a high intensity. We’ve played five or six championship matches that have stood to us.”
So is there motivation? “Of course there is. At the semi-final stage there is a motivation to win.”
Thirteen months ago, Limerick knocked out Clare in phase three of the qualifiers, giving the Banner men an added incentive to triumph this weekend. “We played them last year but they beat us in the crucial game, the game that counts,” said the Rice College school principal.
“You can’t underestimate John Allen and what he’s done with Cork and what he’s now done with Limerick. They were waiting for so long. They won the U-21 All-Ireland two years ago and they are in the Minor semi-final, this year too.
“They should, in my opinion, have beaten Tipp last year and didn’t. But they did it this year. So they’ll be a very formidable opposition to play against.”
Limerick and Clare faced each on no fewer than four occasions, last season. The proximity of the two counties involved, coupled with the fact that many players on both sides have hurled together on college teams, implies an over familiarity between the squads. Does Mulqueen believe that this intense awareness of each other, will be a factor in the outcome of the game.
“Last year, we were on our fourth occasion playing them – similar to the situation with Cork this year. This year, Cork stuffed us on the fourth time and last year Limerick stuffed us on the fourth occasion. So looking at that, familiarity is a factor,” he admitted.
“There’s only so many times you can keep playing the same team with new tricks. But this time we haven’t played Limerick all year. They went a different route. It might be a factor if we were playing them in Cratloe but up in Croke Park, no.”
Clare’s success at underage grades in recent times has undoubtedly upped the ante in terms of the county’s status on the hurling ladder and the transition to the senior panel for a plethora of young players who have tasted success must be of enormous benefit to Davy Fitzgerald and his management team.
Mulqueen agrees. “It’s a very good position to be in,” he said. “Clare are progressing and competing at the highest level at all grades. It’s a good position to be in, that these players are getting big time experience – big games. But it is important not to get carried away,” warned Mulqueen.
“We are still in progressive stage – in development stage. Potential and reality are two different things, they are two different concepts. Reality doesn’t exist until potential is exceeded. When you get your potential, which we have at the moment, it’s not reality unless you win.”
With little success to speak of for the Clare senior hurlers in recent times, are there signs now that they on the cusp of something great? “We are only in a semi-final,” he said. “Some people are getting carried away about All-Irelands. If we loose this game, we’ll be telly-tubbies,” quipped the Banner backroom man.
“We’re progressing – we’re going in the right direction. These lads now have a chance to give an account of themselves in a big, big match. It’s very clear that we have to perform to beat Limerick, who are provincial champions. They’ve worked hard to get where they are and it’s our job to stop them getting to the final. We’ll give it one hell of a shot,” declared Mulqueen defiantly.