Limerick showed just why they are All Ireland champions as they brushed aside the challenge of Clare in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
John Kiely’s men ran out 1-28 to 0-13 winners against their near rivals in a game where all the pressure was on them to save their season.
It was an entirely one-way affair as Limerick dominated from start to finish. They were physically stronger, more tactically astute and played with a far higher intensity. Meanwhile, Clare only had one scorer for the entire first half and only three overall. They looked sluggish and uninspired when compared to their neighbours.
Limerick had 11 scorers on the board on Sunday including points from substitutes, Shane Dowling and Darragh O’Donovan as well as 1-11 from the hurley of Aaron Gillane. However, their most impressive player was a defender, their corner-back, Sean Finn.
The Bruff man, who operated at full-back for most of the league in the absence of Mike Casey, has transformed into one of the best corner-backs in the game at the moment, if not the best. On Sunday, he made a vital number of interceptions while he also rendered Shane O’Donnell completely ineffective in the game.
Finn is our focus in this week’s Spotlight.
The 23-year-old directly prevented two Clare goals in the first half with the first block coming in the eighth minute when Clare were just two points behind.
When Shane Golden ran at the goal, Finn was the only defender standing between the Clare midfielder and Nickie Quaid.
He was aware that Aron Shanagher is free at the opposite edge of the square but stood his ground instead of instinctively running at Golden to try and cut out the ball.
As soon as Golden lined up the pass to Shanagher instead of the shot, Finn sprinted to the other side of the square.
Finn threw himself in front of Shanagher’s attempt and in the replay it is clear that the ball ricocheted off his helmet.
His second vital intervention came just five minutes later when the imposing John Conlon was bearing down on goal.
Conlon had rounded his marker, Mike Casey, but once again, Finn was at the other side of the goal marking Shanagher.
When it became clear that Casey wouldn’t reach the forward, Finn made the decision to leave Shanagher open and track across to Conlon.
Unlike his previous effort, this time the Limerick defender used his hurley to make the interception, producing an outstanding block to force the 65.
Finn is not afraid to attack the ball on the run either as he proved on numerous times in Gaelic Grounds when Clare were slow to react.
In the final example, we see him expertly read the flight of the pass of Cathal Malone which was aimed towards Finn’s marker, Conlon.
The Bruff man got out in front of Conlon and controlled the ball on his hurley and while a Limerick defence of old might have had the urge to puck it as far downfield as possible, this new Limerick side is much more composed and clever in possession.
Finn calmly sent the short pass ahead to Gearoid Hegarty who had tracked back to make himself available as is the style of their half-forward line.
In total, Limerick made 11 hooks and blocks during their tussle with Clare but those interventions were also coming from the forward line who can almost match their defensive counterparts in terms of physicality and work rate.
A much tougher task awaits John Kiely’s men when they travel to Semple Stadium on Sunday to face an unbeaten Tipperary side.
Finn is likely to be marking John McGrath should the Premier County line out as expected, however, given the constant movement of their full-forward line, all of his skills as a corner-back are sure to be fully tested.