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Clare's Ollie Baker on Davy Fitz, JBM and battling with the Rebels

The former midfielder looks ahead to next Sunday’s decider and looks back at past meetings with the Rebels.

Ollie Baker at the launch of One Direct Kilmacud Crokes All Ireland Hurling Sevens.
Ollie Baker at the launch of One Direct Kilmacud Crokes All Ireland Hurling Sevens.
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

1. The rise to prominence of Clare full-back David McInerney…

“I think his level of improvement has been enormous. Last year for the 21′s he looked in trouble in the full back position in a number of areas in his game.

“He seems to have cleared them up.  I think he has been a real find for them because it has allowed Cian Dillon to go corner back, which I think is his preferred and strongest position.

“With Domhnall playing so well over in the other corner, they now have a very solid shape to their full back line.

“They are three good hurlers and it has been augmented by David in the middle holding it all together.”

2. The Davy Fitz factor…

“You have to remember be’s been at this level before with Waterford. They suffered against a Kilkenny team who were at the height of their powers on that particular day.

“Do you know, he learned an awful lot from that. He’s the last 16/18 months implementing a plan with these Clare players. I think he’d lose the respect of the dressing room if he changed and he’d also lose his own respect if he was to change.

“But he’ll be the first man to stand up and say there ain’t any cups on the table yet. That’s why he’ll be very grounded going into this one.”

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Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

3. The JBM factor…

“I stood on the side line beside him down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year. We (Offaly) played them in the qualifiers and we had them under serious pressure.

“I just remember that we were buoyed on the side line, how we were doing so well in the game. But he never flinched.

“It was just kind of like the card player, he never moved himself from his core values. I remember him saying, ‘keep on playing hurling there boys, stay playing hurling’.

“I mean he has that touch of genius. He has that in his managerial career, what he did with the team in ’99 and then to come along now with a bunch of players again.”

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Cork’s Jimmy Barry Murphy
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

4. The prospects of another hurling revolution…

“I think to be a full revolution the Munster championship needs to go around a good bit more. It’s started now.

“Next year is going to be key. If Tipperary get back in the mix next year it’s are we getting back to the old ways again.

“I think it’s too early to say yet, but if you are looking at projecting down the road, looking at what the minor teams are doing, what U21 teams are doing, you’d have to say there is a bit of a change of the guard coming.”

5. His favourite game against in the 90′s….

“Beating Cork in 1995? Not really. I played in 1997 in the Munster semi-final inside in Limerick and I was marking Aidan Cummins, who was a son of Frank Cummins.

“I met Frank Cummins later on that year and he was able to tell me how impressive we were against Cork that day. To get a compliment from Frank Cummins about how you were playing hurling would be way up there.

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“That was a very special day because we were after losing in 1996 to Limerick inside in Limerick and 1997 was a bit of a pressure year.

“It was die dog or shite a licence after that. To be able to respond under that pressure is always pleasing.”

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Clare’s Ollie Baker in action against Cork in 1995
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

6. The disappointment against Cork in the 1999 Munster final…

“It was reminiscent to the way that Kilkenny went this year. We were really just running out of steam. We’d rise ourselves for one game and then struggle for the next game”

“From that game (1999). I think David Forde missed a free later on to draw the game and there was a huge sigh of relief throughout the stands in Thurles that day.

“They (Cork) were back, they had won a Munster final. And once they got that chink of light they burst through. I mean every one of them just burst through, everyone of them unloaded in.

“That’s what Cork do, when Cork get that confidence up they just absolutely unload and come in on top of you. That’s what they did in 1999.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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