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Daithi Regan: 'It's still an All-Ireland final and once it starts, nothing else will matter'

TheScore.ie’s hurling columnist looks ahead to tomorrow’s final replay.

Cork's Brian Murphy and Clare's Conor McGrath.
Cork's Brian Murphy and Clare's Conor McGrath.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

REPLAYS CAN BE a difficult scenario for players to get their heads around.

For the Cork and Clare players, there have been unique challenges to face before tomorrow.

The three-week gap. The focus that has been on the football final in the interim. The positivity in their counties that they fed off before the drawn game will have been replaced by a flatness.

It’s a different dynamic and there has been an onus on the respective management teams to keep the mood of their players at a high pitch.

There’s been some criticism of an All-Ireland final being held on a Saturday. I’m a traditionalist in many ways but in this case I do not see it as a problem.

It’s still an All-Ireland final and once it starts, nothing else will matter. And when that final whistle goes, and if there is a winner produced, it will not be a triumph that is devalued.

Team Selections

I’m not surprised Cork have made a change in their attack. Cian McCarthy is brought In as a recognition that more physicality is needed. Clare were so dominant in their half-back line and they need to be combated.

In relation to that, Cork need to improve on their puckout strategy. In the last game when Cork pucked out the ball, Clare’s half-forwards sprinted back to support their defence under the dropping ball and provide an outlet for a hand pass.

Cork need to occupy the Clare half-forwards and give them more to think about. That means they must have a puckout strategy other than hitting it far and long every time.

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Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The Clare sweeper dilemma

I felt the reason that Clare didn’t play a sweeper the last day was that when they looked at the Cork forward line, they felt that could physically dominate them and didn’t need an extra defender.

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I think Cork will be more tactically astute up front on this occasion. There is a template there from the second-half the last day. Clare’s half-back line were extremely impressive but they didn’t like being turned and put on the backfoot.

Cork need to use their speed, take on Clare’s defence and have team-mates supporting them by running off at angles. Clare are better at long-range point taking than Cork which means Cork need to pose a goal threat. They have shown that they have the capacity to do that.

Clare have not killed teams off this season and that comes down to goalscoring in my view. Their dominance in the drawn game mirrored that which Kilkenny enjoyed in the finals against Limerick in 2007 and against Waterford in 2008. But a lack of goals meant they did not win that game.

Cork’s scope for improvement

A lot of people are saying that Cork cannot be as bad again. That’s a dangerous theory to completely buy into. The more relevant argument is to consider how to get Cork’s leading players like Patrick Cronin, Lorcan McLoughlin and Luke O’Farrell to influence this match more?

Cork have to improve. Some of their play against Clare was naive, particularly their infantile approach to line balls which Clare took quickly and caught Cork out. Clare were tactically on the money which is a sign of how astute Davy is.

But they still didn’t win. That should give Cork confidence. Cork showed in the Gaelic Grounds earlier this summer how to defeat Clare. They broke down their game, put them under pressure and displayed superior skill. They need those qualities tomorrow.

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Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Verdict…

I felt Clare would win before the drawn game. Tomorrow I suspect that Cork will come out firing on all cylinders. They’ll hit a purple patch and if they can sustain it for a 15 minute period at a right time of the game, it can create doubts for Clare.

The one nagging doubt about Clare is Cork’s second-half performance in Limerick. Clare have moved on from that match but they were rudderless in the second-half that day.

Cork are in with a great chance but Clare have a superior game. I don’t think they will be questioning themselves tomorrow after the drawn game. They are young, fearless and will look forward to this game. I feel they will succeed and it’ll be Patrick Donnellan lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup.

Here’s the 10 clubs that supply players to Clare’s All-Ireland starting side

Here’s the 9 clubs that supply players to Cork’s All-Ireland starting side

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