From the off in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Limerick and Clare it was evident the Shannonsiders were suffering stage-fright.
And it was not just impacting the players. The Limerick mentors had no Plan B when Clare started with an extra defender.
Whatever one’s view of the tactic, it worked brilliantly for the Banner. Nevertheless, had Limerick not spurned many gilt-edged scoring opportunities, especially from frees, this would have been a much tighter game.
In a year of some brilliant and exciting hurling there is much to admire about Clare. The skill and touch of the players allied to their pace is superb. In their last two games against Galway and Limerick they played with a swashbuckling and carefree style.
Watching a tactical battle unfold between opposing sides is the essence of sport. The challenge for team mentors if matters are not going according to plan is to come up with a new tactic to thwart the opposition.
There was no reason for the Clare mentors to change their tactics for this game given how well they worked against Galway. This should not have come as a surprise to Limerick, but their mentors were transfixed on the sideline unsure of what to do.
Mentors pitch-side chat
Why did those same mentors stay out on the pitch for so long at the interval? It seemed odd that they would choose to discuss their tactical challenges in front of the assembled spectators.
Perhaps the five week interval from their last big game was a factor in Limerick’s poor performance. The same could be said of Dublin the previous week. Ultimately, though, for most of the Limerick players it was a case of being overcome by the occasion.
After their semi-final success over Dublin, I felt the All-Ireland Final was Cork’s to lose irrespective of the opposition. Now I am not so sure.
The Rebels have much to ponder as they face up to Clare for the second time in this year’s championship.
Clare will continue to use the same seven man defensive formation in the final. It has worked brilliantly thus far so why change?
The challenge for Jimmy Barry Murphy and his colleagues is to come up with a tactic of their own to outwit the Banner men. Without doubt we can expect Cork to have a well thought-out game plan ready for their Munster opponents.
Clare’s success was almost overshadowed by Hawk Eye’s malfunction in the minor game. I was never a fan of the system. Still, I have no issues with the technology but I do not feel that the cost of the system is justified.
In addition, we know only too well that disputed scores are not confined to Croke Park. But the cost of rolling out the system to Provincial grounds makes this a non-runner.
We are told that the reason for the malfunction was an incorrect setting due to human failure. Unfortunately if human failure occurred once it can happen again.
Confidence in the system has been eroded and while it now appears to be back in full working order some scepticism remains.
I was surprised that Limerick lodged an objection to the result with the Central CCCC. It is probable that the County Board came under pressure from factions within the county. The CCCC decision was expected but the matter may yet have some way to go before it is concluded.
I enjoyed the minor game and Galway deserved to win as they possessed the better work rate in both normal time and extra time.
There were modest expectations in Galway regarding this year’s minor team but once again Mattie Murphy engineered a great win and they have every chance in the final against Waterford.
It is a novel minor final pairing. There is probably greater potential in the Déise side, but I wonder about their work rate.
In a year when hurling reached new heights, it is fitting that four different counties should grace Croke Park on All-Ireland hurling final day.