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Monday 15 October 2018

Cutting Clare supply off at source the key for weary Tribesmen

CENTRAL ROLE: Clare’s Colm Galvin in action against Galway’s Jonathan Glynn last weekend. Pic: Sportsfile
CENTRAL ROLE: Clare’s Colm Galvin in action against Galway’s Jonathan Glynn last weekend. Pic: Sportsfile

How effective was Clare management's decision to switch Colm Galvin back into a deep-lying position in his own defence last Saturday in Croke Park?

At half-time, Clare had won 12 of 22 of their own puckouts.

For the rest of the match, extra-time included, they went 27 for 29.

We're hesitant to use the word 'sweeper' for Galvin's role though.

His duties were two-fold but neither had much to do with defending.

Joe Canning. Pic: Sportsfile
Joe Canning. Pic: Sportsfile

Firstly, he gave Clare a short option off their puckouts after Galway had spent the previous 17 minutes, beating them to ball in the air or hounding them out over the sidelines whenever they got their hands on it.

Quarter-back

And secondly, Galvin's pin-point deliveries from between his own 20-metre line and '45' served to bring Tony Kelly, but most obviously, John Conlon and Peter Duggan into the game.

We'd be more inclined to attach the 'quarter-back' similarity to Galvin's role rather than 'sweeper'.

Plus, Galway had started it.

As usual, Joe Canning dropped into midfield when Galway were defending while Johnny Coen moved into their defence, leaving some space for the Clare backs to breath.

And whenever Galway tried to push Conor Whelan on to Galvin, he had the presence of mind, the peripheral vision, the skill and the confidence to simply flick the ball out to Jack Browne or Jamie Shanahan or whichever team-mate had been left free.

Essentially, the switch changed the entire dynamic of the match.

And not only did Clare mount a nine-point comeback in the first half, they turned around a five-point deficit with less than ten minutes to go against the team who had been showing all season the sort of form that many presumed would lead neatly to a second All-Ireland in succession.

Naturally, all eyes in Thurles will be trained on Galway's warm-up.

Gearóid McInerney didn't look in good shape when he came off and the best guess anyone had this week was that he would not be in a position to play tomorrow.

Joe Canning may not be in the whole of his health either but as has been pointed out repeatedly since last Saturday, Canning need only to be in the majority of his health to be a real attacking asset to Galway.

Oddly, given their influence, Galway could afford to shed either and not be too diluted.

Páraic Mannion is expected to switch into centre-back tomorrow in McInerney's absence, with Paul Killeen - who is back to full fitness after last year's cruciate injury - an able deputy on the wing.

If anything, Mannion has been a greater force in the Galway defence than McInerney this summer and though he hasn't quite got the stature, Clare played in such a way last week as to make McInerney relatively ineffective.

Jason Flynn has plenty of talent and is likely to be required to demonstrate it tomorrow if Canning can't go for the full duration.

Even if Flynn's not quite at the level of the Hurler of the Year, neither is anyone else these past two summers.

Clare didn't exactly pull a tactical rabbit out of a hat last week but it had that sort of effect so Galway will be both forewarned and forearmed.

This is the Tribemen's eight game of the championship (for comparison, they won back-to-back All-Irelands in 1987 and '88 playing a total of five matches, one of which was against London) and they are beginning to show some wear and tear but still, they possess more ball-winners up front, even if Clare seem to have more match-winners.

It is essential that Galway stop Duggan and Conlon but to do so, they need to cut Kelly and Galvin off at source.

ODDS: Clare 7/4, Draw 8/1, Galway 4/6

VERDICT: Galway

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