HURLING: ‘If there’s more in Waterford, then there’s as much, if not more, in Clare’

IN the bowels of Semple Stadium Colin Ryan was asked by one of the many reporters who had gathered around whether a replay against Waterford “deep down this was the last thing” either team would have wanted ahead of their Munster semi-final meeting on 5 June.

Ryan, who is a polished media performer, gave a hint of a gasp of incredulity at that one. But he wasn’t putting it on. He was just calling it as it was — as it should be, nailing any myth that the league doesn’t matter.

Yes in the scheme of All-Ireland things it doesn’t matter, but in the moment and in real time, it matters an awful lot.

“Nooooo,” he responded. “We love games. You can be going for the week. We could be flogged for the week and back to the clubs the week after.

“If you ask any player it’s an ideal situation — they just want games, games, games. The gaps between games are too long. We’re just delighted,” he added.

Delighted to have another chance — just like Waterford are.

All because when it comes down to it — and when all talk of shadow-boxing and the mediocrity of the fare for long periods of the contest is forgotten about — there was a national title at stake and both Clare and Waterford haven’t harvested too many of those over the years.

Again it was Colin Ryan who summed that up best when saying “all you want to do is win —at the end of your career you’re going to look back and go ‘did you win medals’. That’s all we’re worried about.”

That’s why this league final was still something of an epic — a slow-burning epic that never really caught fire at any stage, but still one that enthralled as two teams with Munster and All-Irelands on their minds looked to pick up something hugely significant along the way.

Both will take loads from it.

Waterford will think that they can never be as profligate from placed balls as they were on this day, while Clare look at the huge improvement there must be in their attack, given that players like semi-final man-of-the-match Aaron Cunningham, Darach Honan and Peter Duggan failed to fire, while Shane O’Donnell also failed to influence proceedings in any shape or form when coming on as a sub.

That leaves huge room for improvement — for the replay, but also for D-Day of 5 June in championship.

Put simply, even if there’s so much more in Waterford, there as much if not more in Clare.

Had Maurice Shanahan started it probably would have been the Deise’s day on the back of his prowess from frees alone, but that said Clare weren’t too far behind in the wides stakes.

Waterford will think that they can never be as profligate from placed balls as they were on this day, while Clare look at the huge improvement there must be in their attack, given that players like semi-final man-of-the-match Aaron Cunningham, Darach Honan and Peter Duggan failed to fire, while Shane O’Donnell also failed to influence proceedings in any shape or form when coming on as a sub.

Of course the tactics of both sides fed into making it a turgid spectacle — with defence being of paramount importance, it was far too congested to allow for fluidity, which in turn created a dour struggle dominated by each team getting men behind the ball and closing down the space.

Indeed, only when legs started to get heavy did it open up, with both sides then finding more space in attack to raise the standard of the spectacle significantly coming down the home stretch.

With that there was drama aplenty and great scores aplenty.

David Reidy’s brilliant effort for Clare after they’d conceded the first three scores of extra-time to trail by three — had it gone to four, and it could have had he not won that key possession, Clare’s race could have been run — Colin Ryan’s lead score in injury time; Maurice Shanahan’s booming effort from a free.

Epic moments amid mediocrity.

There might be more of both next week, but as Colin Ryan said “we don’t care what the supporters think” because “they enjoy it if you win”.

So true.

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