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Progress made but Clare's joint-managers to mull over future following Galway defeat

Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor have been in charge for the last two seasons.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Semple Stadium, Thurles

DONAL MOLONEY AND Gerry O’Connor will take some time out to contemplate their future as joint-managers of Clare following their exit from the All-Ireland race yesterday.

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They’ve been in charge of the Banner for the past two seasons but the managerial partnership has been on the go a lot longer than that. They won eight underage titles with Clare minors and U21s between 2010 and 2014, before taking charge of the seniors in the winter of 2016.

Clare have been to two Munster finals under the current management, while their All-Ireland semi-final exit this season was one better than last year’s quarter-final defeat.

“That’s for another day,” Donal Moloney said afterwards. “Everybody has invested an awful lot in this journey, it’s not just this last two years for Gerry O’Connor and myself, this is going on since 2006.

“That is a long long time in anyone’s life so we’ll have to look at that.”

Before the game, Clare faced a dilemma on whether to retain Colm Galvin in the sweeper role that worked so perfectly in the drawn game.

Shortly after the throw-in, he assumed the position in front of his full-back line but Galway were ready for it. They played Conor Whelan as a roving centre-forward and attacked down the flanks or, when Whelan drew his marker Jamie Shanahan out of position, they ran the ball through the middle.

Shanahan eventually replaced Galvin as sweeper shortly before half-time, which indicated that Galvin wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as he was in the drawn game.

Clare actually enjoyed their best spell in the third quarter when they pushed right up on Galway and the goals arrived through Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan.

Cathal Malone and Patrick O’Connor with Conor Cooney and Shane Cooney Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“When we came out we knew that Galway would come with a big storm, I’m not sure that Colm’s positioning was effective in quelling that storm,” said Moloney.

“But we had always planned as well that we would go back to a different formation as the game evolved. Teams have to be able to flex and change, Galway had a sweeper there near the end as well.”

Gerry O’Connor explained the decision to go with the sweeper once again.

“Look, they’re a hugely physical team so you can’t just puck the ball down on their half-back line or their midfielder. So we had to come up with a plan to bypass their aerial dominance.

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“And it didn’t go very well for the first 15 or 20 minutes, but we got things together again at half-time. I’m just after coming out of that dressing-room and they’re just devastated. They fully expected that this was going to be their day. And they played for most of that game like it was, particularly in that second-half.”

John Conlon was kept very quiet by Daithi Burke yesterday, but O’Donnell was in inspired form and bagged 1-1, while first-half substitute Ian Galvin was a huge reason for the Clare revival.

Ultimately though, a dreadful start and a rake of missed chances cost them dearly.

“It’s not a slow start,” said Moloney. “It’s nothing to do with a slow start, Galway have a level of capability – that’s three games running, the Leinster final replay, last week in Croke Park and this week.

“So they are not really slow starts, it is magnificent play by Galway the way they come out of the blocks. Fair play to that in terms of how they figure that. We always reckon it’s better to finish strong. It helped us this year, to finish big. Unfortunately we just ran out of time and space, and our efficiency came up a bit short.”

The Clare team during the national anthem Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

After several years of stagnation since their All-Ireland success of 2013, Clare made tangible progress this year. Their team remains relatively young with 14 of the 20 players used yesterday aged under 25.

O’Donnell enjoyed by far his best season in the Clare jersey and while his departure to Harvard on a year-long scholarship will rule him out for the 2019 league, Clare will hope to have him back for the championship.

Aron Shanagher’s return from a cruciate injury will alleviate some of the scoring burden left behind by O’Donnell in the spring, while Aaron Cunningham should also return to the squad after spending this summer in the States.

“Unfortunately, I suppose our efficiency let us down normally our efficiency is much much higher than that but it let us down a little bit,” Molopney added. “Having said that, this is game eight and our players have just been magnificent this summer, they’ve grown so much and they left it all out there on the field.

“I think there’s always, look if you shoot (19) wides they say things like that. When you get some magnificent scores and do some magnificent defending at the other end especially in the second half, you’ll always…I think we’ve always looked at this championship that the most consistent team will win through.

“The fly-by-night don’t survive in this and fair play to Galway, they have been consistent over two seasons now. I don’t think we left it behind, I think they’re a great team.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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