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Jamesie O'Connor: I'd be leaning towards Limerick but hoping otherwise

The Clare legend reckons it’ll be a tactical battle between Davy Fitz and John Allen.

Jamesie O’Connor pictured at Dublin Airport last week.
Jamesie O’Connor pictured at Dublin Airport last week.
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

ONE CLAREMAN CAME out second best against a Cork counterpart at Croke Park last weekend.

But Davy Fitzgerland will hope he can lead the Banner to a win over a John Allen-managed Limerick in the second of the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals this Sunday.

Jamesie O’Connor soldiered with Davy Fitz and defeated Dublin boss Anthony Daly during their All-Ireland-winning playing days. And the former star forward says he always suspected the two loudest voices in Ger Loughnane’s dressing-room would not be silenced after their playing careers.

“I always felt Daly was as close to Loughnane as anyone we had in terms of the charisma, the personality that he had,” O’Connor says.

“I always felt that he was going to have a future in it. With Davy, he’s steeped in it. Both of those guys were involved in their own clubs with underage teams so I suppose it was a natural progression of sorts. Did I ever see the day when I’d see both of them coaching teams and potentially meeting in a final? Probably not. But I probably always felt that Daly would at some stage take Clare.

“They have totally different personalities. Anthony has that experience with Clare which I think was a big help going into the Dublin job. I thought he was the perfect fit for Dublin at the time. Dublin needed a big name to come in after Humphrey Kelleher, Humphrey maybe didn’t have that same profile. It gave a lift to the thing and he was coming in at a stage when he had three years done with Clare and he had been to All-Ireland semi-finals and possibly should have beaten Cork in 2005.

“Both as a player and a manager he had been there a the death of the Championship and knew what was required, what it took. He was always one that was going to be a force, or certainly impose his personality at senior inter-county level.

“Davy has trod a path that people may not have foreseen. I think he is driven, ambitious, he’s a guy that at some stage was going to get a shot at Clare.”

Fitzgerald now seems to have tweaked his system ahead of the Croke Park clash.

“There was a huge body of people who were very critical of the way Clare played,” says O’Connor. “But I thought that they were more direct the last day and I think in fairness to the management, look at the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, Colm Galvin, the type of player they have got. They have obviously got tremendous athleticism and that style, that running game, suits.

“I think the senior style has been different from the U-21 style that those guys played. They looked a lot more like the U-21 team of last year and the minor teams of previous years than the senior team of earlier in the year. There is a lot less ball being run out of defence and I thought we were a lot better as a result. We had gone too possession-oriented, where the corner-back got the ball and it had to be worked methodically up the field. We saw in the Dublin game last year in the first half where it was turned over and the supporters were just, you know.

“Pat Donnellan made a huge error in the Waterford match to give Waterford a foothold in the game that they didn’t have prior to that. I think there was a slight, subtle change in the style of play and I thought we were a lot more direct against Galway.”

Fitzgerlad has a reputation for tactical nous but he’ll be up against St Finbarr’s clubman John Allen, who has been here before with the Rebels.

“Tactically, John Allen is very astute and the way they set up against Tipperary showed he had looked at the previous year, said okay maybe fitness was an issue when they were in a great position and Tipp outscored them 10-3 or something like that in the last 20 minutes so that was going to be addressed,” says O’Connor.

“Obviously Tipperary had a lot more calibre in players off the bench coming on and having huge impact. Limerick didn’t have that same impact and it was as if one by one they ticked these things off: they had a bench, there were way fitter and it was obviously at home.

“John Allen will have studied Clare. He will have seen them against Cork and Waterford. The danger for Clare is that if they replicate what they did against Galway then Limerick will have a plan to address that so sometimes it can be about who can impose themselves tactically on the opposition.

“Cork obviously set the agenda against Clare and Clare very much dictated the terms against Galway and Galway didn’t seem to have a response to that. That’s going to be key. Limerick to me have a bit more experience and calling it now I would be leaning towards Limerick but hoping otherwise.”

Jamesie O’Connor was speaking at the announcement that tickets are now on sale for the Aer Lingus and Etihad Airways International Hurling Festival. Sixteen teams from across the world will participate at the event in Galway from 18-21 September this year. Adult tickets, priced at €5, are available from tickets.ie while U-18s go free and all proceeds go to the Galway Hospice. Visit hurlingfestival.com for more information.

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