Sunday 21 January 2018

Curve Ball

GER LOUGHNANE has never been one to let an incendiary metaphor go to waste, and he didn't miss his opportunity yesterday morning. "This," he wrote, "is like pouring petrol on to a dying fire".

The "this" in question was a statement released by the Clare hurling panel and team management, spelling out their evidently united position on the departures of Davy O'Halloran and Nicky O'Connell.

This controversy has been bubbling for a week, but Loughnane is probably right when suggesting that "the fuss would have died away and we'd all have moved on in a short space of time".


But with the release of this week's statement, will an alternative vista emerge? One that fuels another bout of negative Banner headlines at a time when the team is still struggling in search of the fluency that set them apart for a few beguiling months in 2013?

Good question: Loughnane thinks it might. "Now, there is a real danger that O'Halloran will be further aggrieved by this statement. So, the whole thing could snowball. He might feel he has to respond," the former boss speculated.

It remains to be seen how this pans out. What is clear is that releasing a statement citing "numerous inaccuracies reported in the media, on social media and in a former player's statement" only muddies the water when you don't actually clarify what any of these inaccuracies are.

O'Halloran went public, late last week, outlining how he and O'Connell were disciplined for being out two nights before a league game (albeit while injured and not drinking) and how they subsequently left the squad after refusing to fulfil a series of punishments.

Some of the alleged punishments detailed were extreme, to put it mildly, and the player himself says he was left "humiliated".

However, in the wake of last Saturday's Division 1A victory over Dublin, Davy Fitzgerald insisted that "in Clare, we do things properly. There's a code of discipline and that's it".

In an RTé interview, Fitzgerald rejected the suggestion that O'Halloran was left humiliated as "untrue", while the claim that another senior player had escaped disciplinary action after being caught drinking was vehemently rejected. "I am 110pc certain of that," he declared.

The Banner boss added that "after this comment" he wouldn't be bringing up the matter again … perhaps he would have been better off sticking to that promise.

This column cannot shed any insider knowledge on these polar positions. Moreover, it may well be the case that the Clare panel needed everyone to know that the recent disciplinary issue was "dealt with fairly" and they are moving forward "united".

Yet it's equally true that - as a group, players and management - they struggled with the mantle of All-Ireland holders last season and they must now start reaffirming to their fans that they are fully focussed on the job that matters.

And that's winning matches. Last Saturday's fightback, with 14 men, was a timely start after a demoralising 12 months.

They need more of those clear-headed performances, and less of the vague clarifications.


Banner headlines at a time when the team is still struggling.

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