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A do or die game in Pairc Uí Chaoimh
Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor.
Joint Clare hurling managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor

A do or die game in Pairc Uí Chaoimh

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CLARE and Tipperary both know Saturday could be their last outing for the 2017 season.

“It’s a do or die game for both. We feel we have a huge amount we can improve upon from our last performance, in terms of our defence set-up, our puck-out strategy, our shot selection from the middle third and our decision-making as a whole,” joint team manager Gerry O’Connor said ahead of the panel’s second last training session.

“Ultimately, if you look at the amount of scoring opportunities we created against Cork, they were significant and we didn’t take a high enough percentage of them,” he added.
He conceded that David McInerney’s chances of playing are slim. “At best, his chance is 50-50. Right now we are considering him as unavailable. Anything else will be a bonus. We will know more following training.”

McInerney is the only serious injury worry. “There are the usual knocks and bruises following our game in training on Sunday morning,” he continued.

Referring back to their Munster final loss to Cork he said, “As far as we are concerned, the Munster competition we entered finished last week. It was disappointing. We met on Monday night and thrashed out a few things in terms of where we felt there were opportunities for us to improve upon and there were lots of them. We trained on Tuesday night and it’s back into a new competition. As we said at the beginning, there were three or four phases this year and we are now into the last phase.”

Asked if the criticism of their approach to the Cork puck-out strategy has put pressure on, he noted “when you take on a job like this, you understand that the media have a job to do. It’s par for the course. When you win, you are fantastic and when you lose, you are not so fantastic. In between somewhere is the truth”.

“The same thing happened in the league. We lost a few games and we won a few but our approach would have been the same, whether you win or lose. We are on a journey for a year and we will look back on the year and we will judge ourselves on how we performed in the course of the year, rather than any one individual performance or any one individual game.”
O’Connor noted similar questions were raised about Tipperary when they lost in the league final and later went down to Cork in the championship.

“It’s part and parcel of the game. On Saturday, it will come down to whatever team is best prepared or creates the most opportunities, or whatever team then takes those opportunities. Ultimately we have worked really hard over the last two weeks in training and the real challenge will be to transfer that form from the training pitch onto the actual field of play. That is probably something we are a little disappointed with. We have seen fantastic snippets of form throughout some of the games, without it been completely consistent all the time.

“A big Clare attendance will help,” he noted, adding that “there was a real cauldron and a real noisy atmosphere in Thurles”.

“There was huge vocal support from the Clare support that was there and that was evident when Conor McGrath scored the goal and for the minutes after that. The Clare support was incredibly vocal, considering the amount that was there. It helps to have big support and the players feed off that,” he added.

O’Connor has no concerns about the pitch, which will be used for the first time in two years. “The pitch won’t be the problem. We were there on Saturday morning and we were allowed a run out there.”

He concluded that the team will be named after their final training session on this Thursday evening.

“We want to give David as much time as possible but we are not very hopeful. It seems to be a bridge too far at this stage. Look, training has been very competitive and no more than any week, players go in and out of form. There are opportunities there for panelists,” he said.

By Seamus Hayes sports editor

It's a case of winner takes all when Clare and Tipperary meet in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers.

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