“These are the days we live for” says Clare hurling legend Anthony Daly

The Clare team pictured in The Gaelic Grounds.

Dublin should be providing the opposition for Clare in Sunday’s final thinks Anthony Daly, but now that they’re not the two time All-Ireland winning captain is in the Clare corner and predicting a win.

SUNDAY will be a strange one for me. I know how close we were in Dublin to reaching an All-Ireland final so there will definitely be a part of me thinking what if. But the main part of me will be thinking Clare are in an All-Ireland and we can win this!
Plenty of people have asked me am I glad Dublin didn’t win the semi-final because I’d have to face Clare in an All-Ireland final. That’s a bit of a trick question. I will never be glad we lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Cork. I thought we played magnificently on the day and a few breaks went against us, breaks you need to win games like that, I would love to be in an All-Ireland final this Sunday. Those Dublin lads deserve that for all they put in and some day soon I hope they get the chance to savour that. So while we had a great year winning Leinster, beating Kilkenny in a replay, we know how close we were to getting to Croke Park on the first Sunday in September and that’s what it’s all about.
I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of playing Clare and Fitzy in an All-Ireland final. You can never think that far ahead. Thinking about it now, look, it would have been a bit awkward, no doubt about that. Trying to deprive my own county of an All-Ireland, (and I would have been, with all my might!), that probably wouldn’t have sat well with me, but we would have gotten on with it.
So if there was one plus to losing the semi-final, then that’s probably it, because playing against your own county in a game of that magnitude, well I don’t really know how I would have handled that. But don’t get me wrong, I would have liked to find out!
All-Ireland finals take on a life of their own, we remember that from our own time playing them. There are a couple of things that both managers need to get right in the build-up and focus is probably number one. It will be a big help to both of them that they have each won and lost All-Irelands. You do tend to remember what you think worked from your time winning them and what didn’t work when you lost them. That’s only common sense.
Jimmy Barry Murphy has been there done that and seen it all before. So has Davy. I suspect both of them will have their team ready to play on Sunday, playing the match, not the occasion.
Cork’s strengths are obvious and I got to see them close up in Croke Park. I was struck with their shooting that day. Everytime their forwards got the ball the next thing the umpire was reaching for the white flag, and hawkeye wasn’t needed either, they were landing them from all over the field. That killed us. They got scores at the right time and some of them were super points that I couldn’t really be mad with our backs about. A forward will win a few balls now and again and if you marshall him away from goal, stay close to him, make it hard for him to shoot, ensure there’s no free shot at the posts, hassle, harry and pressure, then you’ve done your job without the ball.
We did that most of the time but they still got the shot off, often falling away from goal, moving away from goal, from distance, and they still went over the bar. Some of their points were great scores and I thought they got a share of them against us. They did something similar in the second half against us in the Gaelic Grounds. You’d be hoping they don’t put as many of them over the bar on Sunday, but our backs really have to work hard without the ball, in packs, legally swarming Cork.
It’s easy to say cut off the supply, but every team are going to have some possession and a big part of today’s game is your attitude and work rate without the ball. I’ve been very impressed with ours, especially against Limerick and Galway when we were like flies around the opposition forward when he had it.
Very often you find out a lot about a player when he doesn’t have the ball. How badly does he want to win it back or is he going through the motions? Training the Clarecastle minors this year this is something we have worked very hard on because the earlier you have good habits the better, I have few worries for Clare here, we have the good habits, we just need to be very accurate in the tackle on Sunday.
How both teams play without the ball on Sunday will set the tone for the game. I expect both to be tigerish and effective, I’m hoping our speed to the break means that Cork have to work harder than us, if they do, we’ll be in good shape.
Everyone is asking me about the sweeper. Will we play it? Will Cork send a man up the field to counteract it? How do you counteract it?
I just remembered another plus of not being in the All-Ireland final, I don’t have to spend hours looking at DVDs trying to figure that out!
I’m sure Cork will have thought about it and have a few plans in place. I’m certain Davy will have thought about what they might do and have a few plans to deal with that. And I’m definite that Jimmy Barry will have thought about what we might do if they do this, that and the other. Sure isn’t that what makes the game so fascinating!
A lot of teams today play an extra man back because they are fit enough to cover the extra ground needed to get away with that. Back in 2004 we were called revolutionary when we did that with Alan Markham against Kilkenny. We chose Alan because his game suited that role, he was a beautiful striker of the ball and forwards loved getting ball from him because it usually came in at the right height, speed and location. That tactic definitely unsettled Kilkenny that day but we have come to expect it nowadays.
On Sunday I wouldn’t be surprised if both sides had seven backs when they don’t have the ball but when they do win the ball, they’ll swarm forward. We need to be mindful of their ability to shoot points from distance and they’ll be worried about our speed with the ball. Hurling is still a game where you have to beat your man however, if you don’t win enough of you’re one on one tussles then all the tactics in the world won’t help you.
I like the way we played against Limerick. We have a very exciting team right now and if we can play our game against Cork then I think we can win on Sunday. It’s a big if but when we’re right, we will be very hard to stop.
Look, it’s an All-Ireland final, so much can go wrong, so much has to go right. In 1995 it took a ball off the post and Eamon Taaffe to pounce on it, in 1997 it took Fitzy to make that save from John Leahy. Those are the split seconds that decide matches, there will be a lot of them on Sunday, all crucial and we need more to go in our favour.
I’ll be there and I’ll be nervous but excited too because we are bringing a serious hurling team to Croke Park. We’ll give Cork all the respect they deserve but we’ll be looking to play our game.
What will it come down to?
Well on the Clarecastle club newsletter all summer we’ve been giving our predictions, Sparrow (Ger O’Loughlin), Nev (Alan Neville), Morr (Kenneth Morrissey, All-Star (Fergie Tuohy), myself and Sheedo (Stephen Sheedy). And in fairness most of the lads have been spot on.
Early in the championship however Sheedo started predicting against Clare for the craic (I’d say he waited to see what we said, before going the other way!) and it became a bit of a good luck charm when he did, he’s nearly obliged to do it now. I’d feel a lot better if he went with Cork this week!
Either way, best of luck to Davy, Louis, Mike and all the backroom staff, not to mention our own Tommy Hegarty on the sideline, Jonathan Clancy, Patrick Kelly and Stephen O’Halloran on the panel and to Pat Donnellan all of the team. You have done your families, clubs and county proud getting here, now finish the job.
These are the days we live for. Sunday is the day to do it. I think we will.


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