LIMERICK manager Maurice Horan was at a loss to explain the jekyl and hyde performance that saw his side crash out of the Munster senior football championship on Saturday evening.
Horan stressed that his side didn’t under-estimate underdogs Clare but was at a loss to explain another poor first half performance.
“We never under-estimated Clare – we talked long and hard about that. They just didn’t do what we wanted them to do in the first half,” said Horan of his players.
“Why did they wait until coming in at half time and when their backs were to the wall,” he said.
“We just don’t know why we didn’t start well – we had talked about how Clare hadn’t played a championship game and said we would bring championship intensity to it but we never did – we brought it in the second half but got hit with a sucker punch at the end of the match,” he said.
“I can’t explain the first half and I think that’s where the game was lost. They wanted it more – they horsed us out of their way, they broke all the tackles. All the things that we talked about doing we didn’t do and I don’t know why. We came in at half time and pulled rank and all of a sudden they start playing - If we played the entire game like we did the second half, we probably would have won,” said Horan with a rueful shake of his head.
“We were furious at half time that we just didn’t put in a serious tackle in the first half. You don’t have to be a good footballer to put in a tackle out the pitch. We stood off them and they pushed us out of the way and then they could see nothing but green space in front of them to pop the ball into,” he recalled of the opening half when Limerick kicked just three points, compared to Clare’s tally of 1-9.
“We asked them why they weren’t putting in tackles, we had talked about working hard and getting bodies around and we asked them why they weren’t doing that – we don’t know what it was, was it that they thought they would beat Clare because they had a recent tradition of beating them,” he recalled of the half time dressing room.
And, Horan was also left to bemoan missed chances.
“We were through for a number of goals chances and we just talked about it in the dressing room that there was poor decision making and a maybe a bit of composure was lacking.”
Last season Limerick regrouped after losing to Kerry in the Munster semi-final and travelled to a first ever All-Ireland quarter final.
What of this season?
“We have club championship this weekend which is probably good for the players to go back to their clubs and we will be back next week and get ready for the qualifiers in mid July. It really is championship at that stage.”
Horan added: “It’s going to be tough”.
“It was probably tougher last year with the trouncing we got off Kerry, but that was a heart breaker of a loss – there is no two ways about it. I thought when we went a point up i felt Clare were out on their feet and we should have kept pushing on with what was working for us but we sat back too much instead of going for the jugular.”