The Tony Considine column: Cork love beating Clare and will relish knocking them out again

The Tony Considine column: Cork love beating Clare and will relish knocking them out again
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

BEFORE we look forward to this week’s championship, I would like to go back to last weekend’s games in the Munster Championship, and how disappointing it was from a hurling point of view.

While we all know the Cork V Waterford game was a dead rubber, I don’t think anyone predicted what happened in Limerick the following day — even the most ardent of Limerick supporters did not see this coming, with Clare completely collapsing for the second week in a row.

No heart, no fight, and no stomach for battle.

A huge disappointment for everybody, and more importantly for the people who paid in to see it. I think they would be fully justified in looking for their money back on the way out.

But in Nowlan Park in the Leinster Championship, we had the best game of the year so far, with Kilkenny and Galway producing a brilliant contest. Every player going flat out, every man trying to win his own ball — it had everything — physicality, great skill, but above all, no bullshit on tactics or sweepers, which was great to see.

Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

We even had sendings off. Definitely no one looking for their money back there. Galway were the victors and will have a big say in this year’s championship — and with Joe Canning ready to come back soon, no one will fancy meeting them.

What a game hurling is when it’s played like this! Can we see more of the same this weekend, please?

The most important game in the days ahead happens to be in Ennis —it’s very hard to believe that Clare are still in this championship, but they are. And I have to say, the team who have caused them the most pain over the years, as long as I can remember (and that’s not today or yesterday), are the Rebels.

I remember great Clare teams playing Cork in the Munster Championship, especially Munster finals, and not having very happy memories of it. Cork always came out on top, and it wasn’t just beatings in a lot of them — it was annihilation. Apart from 2013 in the All-Ireland final, I can never remember Clare beating Cork in a final.

While that was a very sweet victory for Clare, they have not beaten Cork in the Championship since then, even though they have met many times — even the last two Munster finals, Cork still came out on top.

I have to say that Clare haven’t been as low for many a year as they are now; but I believe if there is any blood in their veins, which I imagine is fairly low at this stage, they have to stand up and fight on Sunday. Even at their best, this would have been very difficult, but the way they are now, it’s next to impossible.

Cork are coming here in good form — and that form getting is better all the time. But they would not want to be complacent here — I’m sure John Meyler and his management team will have them fully focused for what lies ahead.

I know there are questions about the Cork defence, but I think there are questions about every defence in the country when you see the amount of scores being conceded every weekend by most teams.

Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy
Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

I believe the Cork full-back line are getting a good few games together, and that is very important for the last line of defence, because the more games you play together, the more understanding you have of each other’s game and how much you can trust each other. 

It’s also very important for Anthony Nash that such continuity is there, because he understands them and what they will do — and likewise, they understand him.

I also think Eoin Cadogan's experience, with the two young lads, Niall O’Leary and Sean O’Donoghue, is very important, as I’m sure John Conlon and Shane O’Donnell will want to prove that they did not become bad players overnight.

I would not be surprised for Cork to start Christopher Joyce in this game, as his experience would be vital in a ground like Cusack Park. Young Downey's lack of experience could be tested by Clare — Peter Duggan and Tony Kelly could capitalise on that.

Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Mark Coleman is back to his form of two years ago. He is not getting that rush of blood to the head like he did last year, and he is playing now like a defender should play — using his great skill and pace, delivering great ball upfield. 

The one he doesn’t send in, he can score.

Darragh Fitzgibbon in the middle of the field is back to his best form as well — what an engine this guy has, probably the fastest player in the country I would think, and also very accurate. Clare will need to close him down — Colm Galvin will need to be on his game here as Cork also have that workhorse, Bill Cooper, supporting everyone around him and doing a lot of the heavy lifting for his colleagues. A very effective player.

But the real problem for Clare will be the Cork attack. Cork have the paciest attack in Ireland in Danial Kearney, Seamus Harnedy and Luke Meade. They roam all over the field, you can’t give them room. 

Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The Clare half-backs will have to close them down, because if they don’t, Donal Tuohy will have a busy afternoon, because if good ball goes in to Alan Cadogan and Conor Lehane, who I expect will be playing, or especially Patrick Horgan, we could see that Clare net shaking a lot, and as the song says it could be ‘Goodnight, Irene’!

Donal Maloney and Jerry O’Connor could be singing the same song after this game too. Unfortunately, I cannot see any plus for Clare here. They look way off the pace in their last two games.

This team have been training and planning together for six months, but it has not come out on the pitch. They do not look fit or organised, but above all they lack the Clare spirit which was always in Clare teams. 

God knows we have been used to losing, but we never failed to battle. It looks like they are playing as individuals. If that’s the case, it is management’s fault, if not, they are doing something very wrong.

This is a huge game for them. Can they be competitive and angry about what everyone is saying about them, and give the performance of their lives? At least satisfy themselves and the Clare supporters that there is still some blood left in those veins?

Real men will always do that, but even if they are at their best, which I hope they will be, I still expect Cork, to win this game with a bit to spare.

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