In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks at where Limerick fell down against Clare in the All Ireland semi-final.
Out hurled, out smarted and out gunned just about sums up the performance of Limerick in the All Ireland semi final against Clare last Sunday in Croke Park.
It was yet another graveyard day for Limerick who were miles off the pace required to compete at this level, one would have to question their preparation for the game and the foresight in planning a formula to test a Clare team who looked much superior in hurling and pace.
It was Fleadh Ceol weekend and Clare were like set dancers hopping off the field whereas Limerick danced a slow waltz and never once put real pressure on Clare.
This was another disappointing day in Croke Park and, as I wrote two weeks ago, teams that go to Croke Park without a plan normally end in tears and this was very much the case with Limerick. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know what Clare were going to do but, like so many times in the past, I didn’t like Limerick’s build up to this game - we had lads all over the papers and management telling us how tactical it was going to be while Clare sat back, Davy said nothing, instead leaving our lads do all the talking.
We even had one player telling the national press how the injured players were coming on. Not his role but then again it appeared he had free reign all year to talk to whoever he wanted. There was a lack of leadership at County Board level, some lads were using the occasion to promote themselves. What’s new?
Limerick had more than forty thousand supporters in Croke Park for this game and it was disappointing that they witnessed such a dismal display from our senior team. The omens looked bad before a ball was struck in this game, Limerick rambled out onto the field whereas Clare came out with the sort of energy that would keep Moneypoint Power Station going for a week.
Limerick looked a very nervous team and never once showed the sort of composure needed in this arena. Clare on the other hand, although a very young team, played with confidence and composure and on so many occasions made the game look simple as they danced around Limerick and controlled the game from the opening whistle.
Of the 20 chances Limerick got in the opening half they only took six, we hit five wides, missed a goal in the opening nine minutes and with eleven wides by half time that was to have a telling impact on the game.
The Limerick management were very naive in the way they approached this game, they thought it would be like the previous two championship games and subs would come on and do the business. That was never going to work a third time. It also sent a message that those on the field held the view they could get at least 50 minutes of play.
Declan Hannon had a very poor day on frees but I don’t blame him, his form all year has been poor from frees and play. While John Allen can say he did well hitting frees in training he forgot to include sixty thousand supporters. Shane Dowling should have started the game, he is a proven free taker who has delivered on so many occasions. Dowling should, at the very least, have come on when Seamus Hickey went off.
I am told Limerick went into this game with two plans but if they did we didn’t see them in action because Clare set the agenda and the Limerick sideline were slow, had no plan to correct it and overall had a very poor day.
Croke Park provides no place to hide to either management or players and many were found wanting. The Limerick full backline were under huge pressure, our half backline, midfield, bar Paul Browne, and our half forward line were crushed and blown away by the swiftness of foot and hurling by Clare.
They had men running off the shoulder, they showed vision on the ball and when I saw their two half backs moving up field unmarked to score points you knew Limerick were in real trouble. Limerick played ‘hit and hope’ hurling, we had lads trying to solo out of defence and this fed into the Clare style as they robbed them each time. Limerick played with no passion or steel and never once put a glove on Clare, they allowed Clare to dictate the way the game would be played and Limerick just had no answers.
The body language of Limerick was wrong running onto the field, wrong as players dropped ball after ball in the warm up. Limerick did not develop players on the bench. Tom Ryan, a clear example, played a bit of a league game against Wexford and then finds himself thrust into battle with 15 minutes to go.
This management it seems didn’t have the stomach for change and it has cost them and Limerick dearly. Loyalty to players is one thing but it can’t come in the way of what’s best for the team. Limerick were cleaned out in the opening half but despite that had they taken their frees and other chances we would have been well in the game at half time.
Clare didn’t travel until the morning of the game, the team was focused as they travelled by train from Limerick. They showed maturity and their first touch hurling was in contrast to Limerick who always looked to have less time on the ball. Limerick won the Munster title but as John Allen said last week no one will remember in a few years who won that.
At the start of the year winning a Munster would have been taken and it’s great but the foundation was badly damaged in Croke Park. Big questions were asked and many on the field, but especially on the line, failed to answer. At halftime the Limerick management stood for seven minutes on the field and it looked wrong.
The subs, unlike Clare, were left outside. Sunday was a really poor day and many will have to reflect as a result. Croke Park is proving to be a major obstacle to Limerick teams but we live in hope of better days to come.