Force four from Clare

 

 

CALL ME the breeze. With apologies to Patrick McCabe for borrowing the title of one of his novels, yesterday in Thurles was no place for the faint-hearted. Or the faintly insulated, at least.

Clare and Limerick both had to contend with a stiff wind that turned Semple Stadium into the biggest wind tunnel in western Europe, and the 28,603 in attendance could tell the direction of the breeze, howling down towards the Town End. You didn’t need to watch the flags so much as the flagpoles, which looked to be bending slightly towards Liberty Square.

Not that that will bother Clare. Their four goals were enough to suck the life out of Limerick and see them through to a Munster final decider against Tipperary on July 13.

“We lost the toss,” said Clare manager Mike McNamara afterwards. “Which was a disadvantage, as we would certainly have played into the wind and maybe held Limerick for 20 minutes, but you could end up thinking the wind would win it for you, which isn’t the case.”

The extent to which the wind was a character was obvious from Limerick goalkeeper Brian Murray’s first puck-out, which hung in the air and then dropped on his own 65 like a stone. Clare didn’t always use the elements to best advantage either; Philip Brennan tried some short puck-outs in the first half when he had plenty of muscle to aim at up the field in Tony Carmody and Diarmuid McMahon.

In fact, neither side seemed sure of their tactics, given the gale blowing all round them; Limerick withdrew Donncha Sheehan to midfield but as the half wore on, the Clare defence benefited from having a spare man. On the other hand Clare had a gale behind them but didn’t seem inclined to bomb the ball in on top of their full-forward line.

The advantage of the modh direach was clear on 15 minutes, when Clare’s Pat Vaughan had time and space to deliver a long ball upfield; Brian Murray can point to the sun, and to the distracting joust of Mark O’Flaherty and Damien Reale in front of him, but he won’t enjoy seeing the video later this week. It was a soft goal, and O’Flaherty’s two points afterwards gave Clare a comfortable lead.

The men in front of Murray won’t enjoy re-runs of the 27th minute: three Limerick defenders dithered in front of the goal only for Jonathan Clancy to stride between them and finish neatly with a clean ground stroke. Clare had seven points to spare at the break, but would it be enough?

McNamara and his management team played down the disadvantage.

“We said to them at half-time that the wind wasn’t as big a factor as we’d have expected,” said McNamara. “You’d expect a storm of wind to bring huge benefits, but the wind never won a game for anybody else. Limerick know that now.”

Still, it was noticeable that Brian Murray started launching the puck-outs down on the Clare 21-metre line; that paid off early in the second-half when Ollie Moran read the bounce of one long delivery to goal past Brennan. Limerick added three points to cut Clare’s lead to two points.

Then came the three minutes which had Richie Bennis pursing his lips testily afterwards. Two Limerick defenders collided going for the ball and left Tony Carmody one-on-one with Brian Murray; the Clareman’s unselfish pass across goal gave Barry Nugent a tap-in.

Soon afterwards Colin Lynch’s delivery was fielded easily by Diarmuid McMahon, who gave Murray no chance from close range.

And that was the ball game. Limerick tried hard to the end, but they were never going to catch Clare after that.

A frustrated Richie Bennis acknowledged the influence of the wind after the game, but he was also frank about the damage Limerick inflicted on themselves.

“It was [an influence],” said the Limerick boss. “It becomes a big factor. I’d prefer rain and wind.

“We held them fairly well in the first-half, but they got two goals — I’d say against the run of play — and they also got two goals in the second-half, which I also thought were against the run of play. Very sloppy goals, the two in the second-half particularly — we were caught ball-watching big time.

“But that’s the way it goes, they deserved their victory and I wish them well in the Munster final.”

Limerick have some work to do — the consensus was that they needed to uncover a forward last spring, but their defence was porous yesterday, and Brian Geary’s recovery can’t come too quickly.

Clare have other challenges ahead. Mike McNamara showed the passion at the final whistle: “We have pride in hurling and in the jersey, and just because we hit a purple patch doesn’t mean we’re going to go away after it.”

He was also pragmatic: “The reality is that we’ll have to play better than that in the Munster final. We know that and ye know that.”

But Clare are confident, and battle-hardened, and they have powerful forwards who make it hard for defenders — with or without the ball. The caveats following their dismantling of Waterford have been answered. After yesterday you could even say they have the wind in their sails.

 

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12-03-2004
Colm O’Connor

Case for defence rings
hollow

 

IT’S hardly surprising Paul Galvin got the book thrown at him this week. After all,
throwing the book was what got him into trouble in the first place.

First things first: mentioning Galvin’s day job as a teacher in
connection with last Sunday is grossly unfair. Players with other professions aren’t held to a higher standard when they line out for their counties.

Neither are pundits. Nobody asks Joe Brolly if it’s appropriate for a
barrister to offer personalised criticism of GAA players.

Unfortunately, therefore, it was a tactical error or poor advice, or both, that led to Galvin mentioning the fact that he trains the school team on RTÉ. He’d have ben far better off pointing out — rightly — that his nine to five job has no bearing at half-three on a Sunday.

Then again, some of the other defences offered on his behalf this week are worse. Take the ‘reputation preceding him defence’, for example — Galvin has a bad name, ergo he suffers more at the hands of referees and opponents than other players.

Unfortunately, the suggestion that Galvin is more sinned against than sinning doesn’t hold up. In almost 30 inter-county championship games for Kerry he has been sent off only twice, and that includes last Sunday against Clare, which hardly denotes a player whose photograph rests on referees’ dartboards.

As for opponents, Galvin himself has apologised since the game and
offered frustration as the cause of his actions. But he also knows stepping onto the field of play what kind of
attention he’s likely to receive.

Earlier this year in an interview he referred to an incident in a game against Limerick some years ago in which opponents got involved with him, seeking a reaction; as that realisation dawned, in words which have a grim ring to them today, Galvin said: “I really learned a lesson that day.”

The reputation argument is closely related to the ‘unfair to miss a season’ defence. Every player wants to play; should the rules be set aside to make them all happy?

The fact that Galvin spent six months preparing for last Sunday’s game could easily pop up in the prosecution brief — having invested that much in getting himself right, should he not have prepared himself mentally for the overwhelming likelihood that an opponent was likely to try to frustrate him?

Reinforcing the point made above, John Kiely, the Waterford manager, put the case eloquently for opposing coaches when he told this newspaper: “If you are in charge of any team playing Kerry you will always try and agitate a player like Paul Galvin. That is sad but true.”

That last defence is linked to the old ‘without that edge he’d be half the player’ chestnut, an eye-rollingly misguided sports myth.

Having the discipline to operate within the rules is a prerequisite in any sport. The most violent sporting confrontations occur in the boxing ring, where the rules must be followed. Why should field games be any different?

Managers down the years have always stressed the importance of having all their players on the field of play; revisit Galvin’s early-season interview and there’s another admission — the realisation that he could cost Kerry games through indiscipline — which reads now like a glow-in-the-dark hostage to fortune.

The only vaguely workable defence offered so far is inconsistency in punishment (though we must have been home from school the day someone decided the GAA was a model of jurisprudence), with Brendan Devenney’s six months for pushing a referee in 2004 the main witness.

Inconsistency advocates are right, but not in the way they think: Devenney should have been punished more severely for that indiscretion. Six months was a light sentence.

Paul Galvin’s suspension is harsh, but it’s justified. Nobody knows that better than he does.

“I have done things that have got me in trouble,” he said earlier this year. “I’ve got away with things too. I don’t claim to be victimised.”

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

 

 

I T’S official. The summer
began yesterday, with a
Munster championship game on a day hot enough to make the mercury whimper in the glass.

There were too many scrums and general fumbling to elevate yesterday’s first round game to the pantheon, but Clare won’t worry about that. They crushed Waterford by nine points, 2-26 to 0-23, to set up a semi-final clash with neighbours Limerick in three weeks’ time. We’d have described that prospect as mouth-watering, but we’re still a little dehydrated after yesterday. Give us a break.

It’s understating matters somewhat to say Clare were up for
yesterday’s game. Waterford lined out without two Eoins and a Ken — Murphy, Kelly and McGrath,
in that order – but their own manager suggested after the game that no team in Ireland would have lived with Clare.

He might have a point. A
general impression that Clare had more potential up front yesterday than in recent years wasn’t long being confirmed. After Waterford started well, the Banner forwards reeled off five consecutive points like a gambler freeing up his bankroll, and when a long delivery found open space in front of the Waterford goal, Mark Flaherty kept his composure to beat
Clinton Hennessy.

It was interesting that Clare
forward Tony Griffin, who helped himself to five points, suggested afterwards that Waterford were more open than the likes of Kilkenny and Cork, and the
Banner certainly seemed able to find space up front at their ease – in the first half alone six different Clare names appeared on the scoresheet.

When Waterford tried to lift the siege, they found the Clare forwards willing to defend from the front, and big men such as Griffin, Tony Carmody and Niall Gilligan kept the ball at the Waterford end.

No accident, according to Clare boss Mike McNamara. “We spoke to them about that for the last month,” he said after the game. “That every ball was vital, that every ball had to be won, and as you can see, that was the way they approached the game today.”

The Clare half was more crowded. In this newspaper on Saturday, analyst Donal O’Grady pointed out that in the modern game half-backs tend to catch rather than block the ball, leading to loose ball running through in front of the full-backs behind them. The Clare half-back line attacked the ball in the air vigorously, though they also benefited from an extra body behind them – the full-backs were often protected by Colin Lynch, who dropped back behind his half-back line throughout the game and manned that vital area.

Waterford suffered as a result. In the first half they had barely a goalscoring opportunity worthy of the name, apart from one half-sight of goal for John Mullane, which Plunkett and Patrick Donnellan did well to snuff out. Sparse rations for a side that nourishes itself on three-pointers.

At the other end, Clinton Hennessy had to be smart to put a deflected ball out for a 65 as the half wore down, and for anyone watching this Waterford side, there was a depressing familiarity in the lack of aggressive defending against high ball coming into their goalmouth.

Though there was only a goal in it at the break – 1-12 to 0-12 – the writing was on the wall. Ten minutes after the restart Niall Gilligan won the ball and turned cleverly, a decade’s experience discernible in his neat movement away from the cover. From14 metres he buried a goal to kill the game; Dickie Murphy’s final whistle was the coroner’s stamp.

“No cribs,” said Justin McCarthy afterwards. “With today’s performance I don’t think any team would have beaten Clare. We came up with high ambitions and so on, but at the end of the day they outplayed us. They got great scores from play and from frees, and those two goals were a big issue for us.”

It might have been worse for Waterford, remember. Supporters from the southeast may not want to dwell on what might have happened if John Mullane had been off-form. The De La Salle man was heroic, with eight points from play, and Dave Bennett was unerring from frees.

Waterford face either Antrim or Galway on the first weekend of July, which gives them a month to carry out repairs, and a bad day worsened when Dan Shanahan didn’t shake hands with his manager as he was called ashore, a non-encounter which drew a
vocal reaction from the attendance.

But it was Clare’s day, and Clare’s game. Their supporters stood to acclaim Colin Lynch when he came off. The midfielder left it all on the field, just like his colleagues.

“We trained for this game the same as for an All-Ireland final,” said McNamara afterwards. “We had to do something to get out of the hole we were in. Clare hurling had been in a bad way and even the supporters were deserting us in droves, so we had to come up with a big performance.”

Tony Griffin was quick to point out that Waterford were depleted, and they were, but physical presence and maximising your scoring opportunities will sound familiar to the teams which suffered under Clare in the nineties. The more intangible advantage was the collective focus they radiated yesterday from start to finish, which bodes well for their local derby against Limerick. And if they can match their manager’s insouciance, they’ll be hard to beat. Asked if he’d been worried at any stage yesterday, Mike McNamara was breezy: “The last time I got worried it was 1963 or 1964, when I was in boarding school.”

On yesterday’s evidence, others will do some worrying about Clare this summer.

 

 

I T’S official. The summer
began yesterday, with a
Munster championship game on a day hot enough to make the mercury whimper in the glass.

There were too many scrums and general fumbling to elevate yesterday’s first round game to the pantheon, but Clare won’t worry about that. They crushed Waterford by nine points, 2-26 to 0-23, to set up a semi-final clash with neighbours Limerick in three weeks’ time. We’d have described that prospect as mouth-watering, but we’re still a little dehydrated after yesterday. Give us a break.

It’s understating matters somewhat to say Clare were up for
yesterday’s game. Waterford lined out without two Eoins and a Ken — Murphy, Kelly and McGrath,
in that order – but their own manager suggested after the game that no team in Ireland would have lived with Clare.

He might have a point. A
general impression that Clare had more potential up front yesterday than in recent years wasn’t long being confirmed. After Waterford started well, the Banner forwards reeled off five consecutive points like a gambler freeing up his bankroll, and when a long delivery found open space in front of the Waterford goal, Mark Flaherty kept his composure to beat
Clinton Hennessy.

It was interesting that Clare
forward Tony Griffin, who helped himself to five points, suggested afterwards that Waterford were more open than the likes of Kilkenny and Cork, and the
Banner certainly seemed able to find space up front at their ease – in the first half alone six different Clare names appeared on the scoresheet.

When Waterford tried to lift the siege, they found the Clare forwards willing to defend from the front, and big men such as Griffin, Tony Carmody and Niall Gilligan kept the ball at the Waterford end.

No accident, according to Clare boss Mike McNamara. “We spoke to them about that for the last month,” he said after the game. “That every ball was vital, that every ball had to be won, and as you can see, that was the way they approached the game today.”

The Clare half was more crowded. In this newspaper on Saturday, analyst Donal O’Grady pointed out that in the modern game half-backs tend to catch rather than block the ball, leading to loose ball running through in front of the full-backs behind them. The Clare half-back line attacked the ball in the air vigorously, though they also benefited from an extra body behind them – the full-backs were often protected by Colin Lynch, who dropped back behind his half-back line throughout the game and manned that vital area.

Waterford suffered as a result. In the first half they had barely a goalscoring opportunity worthy of the name, apart from one half-sight of goal for John Mullane, which Plunkett and Patrick Donnellan did well to snuff out. Sparse rations for a side that nourishes itself on three-pointers.

At the other end, Clinton Hennessy had to be smart to put a deflected ball out for a 65 as the half wore down, and for anyone watching this Waterford side, there was a depressing familiarity in the lack of aggressive defending against high ball coming into their goalmouth.

Though there was only a goal in it at the break – 1-12 to 0-12 – the writing was on the wall. Ten minutes after the restart Niall Gilligan won the ball and turned cleverly, a decade’s experience discernible in his neat movement away from the cover. From14 metres he buried a goal to kill the game; Dickie Murphy’s final whistle was the coroner’s stamp.

“No cribs,” said Justin McCarthy afterwards. “With today’s performance I don’t think any team would have beaten Clare. We came up with high ambitions and so on, but at the end of the day they outplayed us. They got great scores from play and from frees, and those two goals were a big issue for us.”

It might have been worse for Waterford, remember. Supporters from the southeast may not want to dwell on what might have happened if John Mullane had been off-form. The De La Salle man was heroic, with eight points from play, and Dave Bennett was unerring from frees.

Waterford face either Antrim or Galway on the first weekend of July, which gives them a month to carry out repairs, and a bad day worsened when Dan Shanahan didn’t shake hands with his manager as he was called ashore, a non-encounter which drew a
vocal reaction from the attendance.

But it was Clare’s day, and Clare’s game. Their supporters stood to acclaim Colin Lynch when he came off. The midfielder left it all on the field, just like his colleagues.

“We trained for this game the same as for an All-Ireland final,” said McNamara afterwards. “We had to do something to get out of the hole we were in. Clare hurling had been in a bad way and even the supporters were deserting us in droves, so we had to come up with a big performance.”

Tony Griffin was quick to point out that Waterford were depleted, and they were, but physical presence and maximising your scoring opportunities will sound familiar to the teams which suffered under Clare in the nineties. The more intangible advantage was the collective focus they radiated yesterday from start to finish, which bodes well for their local derby against Limerick. And if they can match their manager’s insouciance, they’ll be hard to beat. Asked if he’d been worried at any stage yesterday, Mike McNamara was breezy: “The last time I got worried it was 1963 or 1964, when I was in boarding school.”

On yesterday’s evidence, others will do some worrying about Clare this summer.

 

Y OU can forget the Lisbon
Treaty. You can forget the
Democratic primaries. The most pressing question of the last few months was answered in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday. Tipp are back, asserting themselves after early nerves to beat Cork in the Munster SHC in front of 42,823 spectators. Not a focus group or a super-delegate in sight.

In real terms Tipp have never really gone away, but yesterday had an air of revival all the same. The blue and gold supporters can look forward to a long hot summer, and the lyrics of Slievenamon will be echoing far beyond Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the next couple of months.

Though Cork threw starting debuts to two of their full-forward line, it was their old guard who conjured a goal early on. Timmy McCarthy broke the ball towards Ben O’Connor, who found an avenue through the Tipperary defence slightly wider than the Marina. One-on-one with Brendan Cummins, the Cork man held his nerve to finish calmly to the net.

With Cathal Naughton flummoxing Tipperary by operating in the middle of the field, Cork were on top, and the evidence was empirical: over 17 minutes had gone before the first chant of Tipp-Tipp-Tipp was heard.

“We showed a bit of nerves,” said Tipp boss Liam Sheedy, referring to his side’s rocky opening. “No matter how you do in the league, the Munster championship is a different animal. We were a bit jittery early on.”

True enough. Cork were rampant, running up a seven-point lead, but anyone expecting a collapse from the Premier was disappointed. Lar Corbett used his pace to range to and fro in front of the City End, and Eamonn Corcoran and Shane Maher came into the play. When a Seamus Callinan shot was half-blocked it ran to Eoin Kelly on the 21. The Mullinahone man was well-marshalled in the first half by Brian Murphy apart from those couple of heartbeats in the 24th minute; that’s all the time he needed to test the rigging.

“Eoin’s goal was the vital score,” said Sheedy. “The game might have been slipping a bit from us then, and if Cork had slipped over another point or two at that stage…”

At half-time there was a point in it (1-8 to 1-7). The game wasn’t in the melting-pot so much as the saucepan they use to melt down the other melting-pots.

Naughton blazed through for a point on the restart; Seamus Callinan retorted. Cork may draw comfort this morning from the great save Pa Cronin forced from Brendan Cummins, but three wides in a row saw the initiative slip away from them.

If the second half had a turning point it came on 42 minutes, when Pa Cronin won a Cork penalty. Surprisingly, debutant Paudie O’Sullivan took it, only for Cummins to save. In a neat reversal of 2005, when a Donal Óg Cusack penalty save spurred Cork to victory, Tipperary drew strength from Cummins’ stop, and their defence began to get on top.

Lar Corbett bore down on goal and was grounded in desperation. Seamus Callinan was winning more and more ball. With Tipp’s half-backs resolute, the supply improved to Eoin Kelly with inevitable results.

As Ol’ Blue Eyes never sang, Kelly and scores go together like a horse and carriage. Even the couple of hundred auxiliary Cork men forced to watch the game from the pitch perimeter — having been allowed out of the Blackrock Terrace by the gardaí — would have been hard pressed to keep him quiet had they been allowed beyond the whitewash.

At the end there was six points in it, and the Tipperary support drank in the victory as only Tipp fans can.

Cork will face a chorus of second-guessing: about the strike, about their selection, about their substitutions, about the decision to go for a goal from their penalty, but their real worry will be the lack of a second wind. This is the second time in 12 months that Tipperary have outpaced them coming down the stretch.

Having scored four points in the second half — and replaced four of their forwards during the game — they’ll hope improving their shot selection will bring them back into contention. If results go according to expectations they’ll face Waterford next month, a game that now assumes huge significance for both teams, as the losing side is likely to break up and face a rebuilding process.

A disappointed John Gardiner agreed with the Tipperary boss that Eoin Kelly’s goal had been critical.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes went well for us,” said the Cork captain. “But then Tipp turned the tables. The goal was the main turning point.”

“At the end we were chasing the game,” said his manager, Gerald McCarthy. “We tried very hard to turn it around, we made a lot of substitutions, but it just didn’t happen for us.”

For Tipperary the news is better, obviously enough. Liam Sheedy had his face to the heavens as the clock wound down yesterday, but divine intervention wasn’t needed.

“We finished quite strong,” said Sheedy. “We played a lot of tight games in the league, and I think that stood to us in the last 15 minutes. We’ve a lot of work done, and every one of them who went on the pitch today did well.”

Though Sheedy was careful to rein in expectations — he referred to Cork’s wides tally, pointing out that the game might have ended differently had the Rebels been more accurate — but even the downside can be given a positive spin.

The jittery opening Tipp went through yesterday can be improved for the Munster final. Shane McGrath confirmed the promise of spring. And the Premier County now look to have momentum, a handy asset facing into the high summer.

Cork bet. The hay saved. And better yet to come?

 

THINK of us hacks these last few weekends, squeezing our way through the throng to GAA teams’ dressing rooms, skipping with light feet across the
seats in the covered stand in
Páirc Uí Chaoimh or the Gaelic
Grounds, slipping an unobtrusive
dictaphone into the nostril of a near-naked hurler.

Access to players after
a high-intensity inter-county game can often be fraught, but all of us will be hoping to avoid the scenes which played out in Barcelona last week, when Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o apologised for headbutting a journalist.

Eto’o apologised yesterday
for headbutting the journalist, Philippe Boney. (Aside: a star striker heads a journalist on the forehead; the journalist’s name is Boney. It’s pun overload, isn’t it?).

Boney was reportedly headbutted by Eto’o and then assaulted by members of the Cameroon squad last Friday following some journalists’ decision to boycott a press conference over access to the team, and Eto’o later told Cameroon television he had met and apologised to Boney, adding: “In the name of all my
teammates I want to apologise.”

Boney later confirmed that he and Eto’o had made up, however: “Yes, we met up and he has asked my forgiveness. He promised me a few things, let’s see if he sticks to his promise.”

Press reports said that after
the incident, members of the Cameroonian entourage confiscated all cameras and mobile telephones belonging to the press in a bid to get rid of
the evidence. So don’t hold
your breath for the YouTube
premiere.

 

The incident reminded us of
a relatively obscure encounter between a writer from the Boston Globe and an NFL player in the late 70s.

Will McDonough was looked up to by all his peers for one simple reason. He once punched an NFL player.

According to witnesses — and, as with most near-mythical events, the number claiming
to have seen
the incident would have
filled the
stadium rather than the locker room in which it took place —
McDonough knocked the miscreant into the team owner, who then fell into a clothes hamper.

As the Patriots’ medical staff looked at McDonough’s hand, the player showed up for attention as well.

McDonough’s question wasn’t a query about how the game had gone or whether the team could regroup for the following week: “You want another dose?”

The whole thing began with New England Patriots corner back Raymond Clayborn
shoving an older man in the
Patriots’ locker room.

McDonough said to Clayborn, “You know what you just did?”

Clayborn, sore after a defeat minutes earlier, got up close and personal with the sportswriter, jabbing a finger in the older man’s face to emphasise the points he was making. But he miscalculated and plunged the finger into McDonough’s eye, blinding him in pain.

McDonough was born and reared in south Boston, which is not a place where one sticks a finger in someone’s eye
without expecting an immediate
response. One of McDonough’s Southie pals was James (Whitey) Bulger, who once spent a few years at Alcatraz after robbing a bank — where McDonough
visited him — and is now on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, next to Osama bin Laden.

McDonough did not seek a Socratic dialogue with Raymond Clayborn, he clocked him with a punch. History does not record what McDonough told his
editor when he didn’t come up with any post-game quotes.

Obviously we’re not encouraging anything similar from
disgruntled journalists in any GAA dressing rooms. We’re
certainly not encouraging any Samuel Eto’o-type outbursts from any GAA players. But there is a take-home point from the story of Will McDonough and Raymond Clayborn.

“I have the greatest respect
for Raymond Clayborn,”
McDonough’s widow Denise McDonough said recently,
“because he and Willie, after that, made amends and became good friends.”

contact:
michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

 

Laying the blame or playing
the game?

U NREST in the
southeast. Stormy
times in the Déise. The Gentle County, gentle no longer.

However you want to describe it, the Waterford hurlers’ sudden putsch against manager Justin
McCarthy has surprised
observers not so much in its substance as in its timing. There’s been some muttering about unrest in the Déise camp for some time; you could say the same about every team in Ireland, but this is different.

In an era of short managerial reigns, McCarthy has been at the helm in Waterford for seven years; in an era of abbreviated inter-county playing careers, that’s a lifetime.

The glass-half-full
account of his time in charge shows plenty to smile about. McCarthy has been the most successful Waterford manager of all time, leading the county to three Munster championships and a first national title in 43 years with the NHL win last year.

On the other hand, the manager made mistakes along the way: giving Ian O’Regan an All-Ireland semi-final debut as goalkeeper against Kilkenny back in 2004 looks a rash decision in hindsight, as was cutting players such as Brian Wall and James Murray adrift from a shallow enough pool of talent. A modern full-back was never discovered either, and the team suffered in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick as a result.

Finally, there’s a general consensus that McCarthy’s man-management skills were a distant second to his coaching ability, and the uprising by his players certainly seemed to bear that out. By any reckoning, his position last night was untenable either way. 

 

 

E XHIBIT A in the case
against the manager
seems to be the display of Waterford last Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds against Clare, when the team in white and blue managed all of five points if you remove the combined contributions of Dave Bennett and John Mullane.

However, perhaps the prosecution team should look on that performance as a hostile witness. Losing to Clare by nine points and not scoring a goal isn’t
indictable all by itself; in a game of hurling a couple of late goals can always give the scoreboard a lopsided look that doesn’t truly reflect the 70 minutes just gone.

What was far more significant was the attitude and display of many players, which was far below the level required for the Munster senior hurling championship.

In an informal chat some time ago an inter-county hurler of this column’s
acquaintance remarked that the first few minutes of a Munster championship game was savagery: you were going to cut the head off your man for the first few balls that came in, he said calmly, and you knew that the man in the next dressing-room was going onto the field with the same intention.

Some of the Waterford players who lined out last Sunday didn’t bring the minimum standard of savagery to the table, to put it bluntly, and they suffered accordingly.

To put it even more bluntly, they gave up. That was the opinion of their best player on the day, John Mullane, directly afterwards.

“As defending champions,’’ he said, “we threw in the towel awful early, and for me that’s what hurts most. Our loyal supporters deserve better.”

Seeking the head of their manager is an implicit transfer of blame by the players to the man on the sideline, a harsh move in the context of a pallid display which ended with a nine-point defeat. Granted they were without three All-Star teammates — Ken McGrath, Eoin Kelly and Eoin Murphy — but a collapse like last Sunday’s was depressing for its lack of spirit. By moving decisively against their manager the Waterford players — those who lined out last Sunday in particular — have signalled that there’s more in them. They have the rest of the summer to show exactly how much.

michael.moynihan@examiner.ie