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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
INPHO/James Crombie Clare captain Paul Flanagan lifts the trophy.
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Clare's 'highly intelligent' maths-teaching coach figures winning formula for U21s
Clare joint-manager had high praise for Paul Kinnerk after the win last night.

CLARE JOINT-MANAGER Gerry O’Connor heaped praise on Paul Kinnerk following last night’s historic victory over Tipperary in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling championship final.

Former Limerick footballer Kinnerk is the highly-rated PE teacher and GAA coach working his magic with Clare’s U21 and senior hurlers.

One of the key tenets of Kinnerk’s coaching philosophy centres on improving decision-making through small-sided training games. And O’Connor believes that the fruits of Kinnerk’s work came to bear “phenomenally” against Tipp at Semple Stadium.

Clare captured back-to-back Munster U21 titles for the first time in their history on Wednesday night. It was also the very first time that Clare had beaten Tipp on Premier County soil in a provincial U21 final.

The one and only previous time that a Clare side achieved that particular feat was back in 1981 — when John Lynch captained the Banner minors to a one-point victory over Tipp at Semple Stadium in the Munster final.

And just before Clare departed the Thurles venue last night, O’Connor singled out Kinnerk for a very special mention.

“That guy is the guy you should be talking to,” insisted O’Connor. “Paul Kinnerk started all of this. He’s so intelligent.”

Kinnerk is an honours Leaving Certificate mathematics teacher and Physical Education Teacher at St Caimin’s Secondary School in Shannon, who contested a Harty Cup final in 2009.

With the Clare minor hurlers, he was coach and selector of the teams that won back-to-back Munster titles in 2010 and 2011, teams managed by O’Connor and his managerial sidekick Donal Moloney.

Kinnerk has been working with the U21s since Moloney and O’Connor moved up a grade in November 2011 and he’s also worked with Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare seniors since then.

And O’Connor revealed: “We work away while he (Kinnerk) is with the seniors and then he comes back and gives us our masterclass.

“But we’re only in high infants compared to him. He’s superb to be fair. He has a highly-intelligent mathematical brain. He thinks and thinks and thinks in between every training session.

“The detail and thought process he puts into his training sessions…we never play a match, we never do a sprint, it’s all conditioned, modified games.

“Touch, tackle, touch, tackle, and it came off phenomenally tonight.

“We saw the DVDS (of Tipperary) against Limerick and Cork and they were excellent, to be fair. But we did feel that Cork didn’t put them under as much pressure as they might have done. And (with) our pace, if we brought the ball down to ground, got possession and ran at them, we had an opportunity.”

O’Connor, an Éire Óg clubman, described this victory for Clare as one of the county’s most relevant of all time, taking the context into account and where it was achieved.

He added: “I’m from the heart of East Clare, from the top of the mountain, just up the road from Donal’s farm. For 20 years, we used to come down to Thurles and we’d be beat out the gate. Year in, year out, for as long as I can remember. To come down and do what those lads did tonight is unbelievable pressure. I mean that. Ok, it’s great to win an All-Ireland but to come to Thurles, where we love playing, we thrive on that pitch, and the movement, support play, fielding, distribution, composure and non-panic – they were the key things.”

The ex-Clare hurler and 2006 Allstar who is now part of the Dublin senior backroom team

Limerick hopeful attacking duo Tobin and Downes will be fit for Clare clash

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