We had expected the 2019 Clare senior hurling final to be one that would live long in the memory and while no one in Sixmilebridge will mind too much, I have to say it was disappointing.
It was all lined up to be a huge battle but realistically that all finished after only ten minutes. We had spoken about Conor McGrath being the main man for Cratloe in terms of setting the agenda from the middle of the field and being that link man. Once he got injured, it was really ball burst for them. The disappointing thing for Cratloe will be that no one else really stood up to be counted once McGrath went out of the game. Tactically, they played right into Sixmilebridge’s hands. How they could have left Caimin Morey loose for the majority of the game and keep pumping ball down on top of him was hard to believe. There were times late on when the lead could have been cut down to one score but Cratloe missed some crucial frees and it hurt them while giving energy to the Bridge when it should have been the opposite.
You have to give huge credit to Sixmilebridge. We have said from day one that they have developed their system and worked on it. It has taken them a while to get to grips with it in some games and that was the same on Sunday. Once they got a handle on it, they executed it brilliantly. They won all the tactical battles and all the psychical battles too. Their work ethic was massive and like we have been saying all year, they are finishing games much stronger than any other team they have met. The best player I have seen this year for the Bridge has been Cathal Malone. I thought he was really influential as that target man inside but also when he comes out around the middle third. He puts himself about really well and gets onto ball and uses it well.
For Cratloe, trying to marry the two codes has proven a real challenge and I thought they looked a really tired team with ten minutes to go. This will be a major concern for them and they will have to ask if they are happy to just be getting to semi finals and finals but not getting over the line. The dual mandate really seems to be hurting them and I don’t know what the answer is but something will have to be sacrificed to get the results they need. On paper, they are very balanced and have great hurlers but something is obviously hurting them along the way.
Niall Malone did a really good job in his debut county final as a referee. I thought he let the game flow and at times you would nearly think there was no referee on the field. It was psychical at times but he let the play develop and that is something patrons and players alike love to see. He was not the centre of attention and dealt with whatever he had to deal with in a really good way. He can be very proud of himself after it and he has a big future ahead.
On the fiasco surrounding the search for the next Clare senior hurling manager, let’s just hope that the change that began at last week’s meeting is only the start of more to come. I still think that it should be a totally independent committee put in place to oversee it but we will have to wait and see what transpires come 5pm next Monday evening. The other thing that boggles the mind is how the people interviewing Brian Lohan and Louis Mulqueen did not think it pertinent to ask them who they had on their backroom teams. How in the name of God could you not ask that question? It all just adds up to what has been massive mismanagement by the county board. They really need to have a look at themselves and ask the question if they are really the best people to lead the GAA in Clare forward.
I am really disappointed about what happened with Fergal Lynch. I thought he did an excellent job last year and questions need to be asked as to why he stepped away from the minor job. A lot of people had gripes about the way he set up but he was getting results. I know players and parents alike were happy with the set up and now we have another good man who is after pulling away from Clare GAA. He deserved a lot more respect and I would like to know the reasons why he has stepped down.
What way are our players thinking right now? They have been sitting on the wings watching the fiasco unfold led by a body of people who are meant to lead from the front. There are huge uncertainties surrounding what lies ahead and already preparations for next season are going to be behind where they need to be. What chance has a new management team coming in of igniting that spark and finding the energy levels and resources that are needed to bring players to the level they need to get to? Players are surely scratching their heads wondering what is happening. We all hope that a brilliant management team can be found and put all the madness of the last few months to bed and focus on what we all want to see which is Clare hurling at the top table.
That is what we all want and what we all must work towards.