The National Hurling League Final was a great summary of hurling over the last 12 months or so. A very cagey affair unfolded and all spectators would have to say that it was 25 euro badly spent and a long car journey wasted.
I have to say I’m glad I played hurling when I did
— Ken McGrath (@kenmcgrath78) May 1, 2016
But of course, five late minutes of drama will lead to a lot of people saying it was a great finish. But it’s just papering over cracks in what was an awful game. 0-15 to 0-15 was a very poor return over 70 minutes.
The score in extra-time was 0-7 each. So there were 14 scores in 20 minutes compared to 30 scores in 70 minutes. But the manner in which the teams played in extra time made one thing clear to this writer; neither side were overly pushed about winning the League final.
Everybody expected Clare and Waterford to put a big effort into winning on Sunday. After two wins over Tipperary and Kilkenny, everyone felt Clare would look to add another statement of intent by capturing silverware, but they performed very poorly.
Waterford have one of the most passionate hurling followings around and securing national titles is something that the Déise appeared to be starved of, and surely one which they would have loved to grasp. We all know that Championship is what matters in GAA, but back-to-back league titles would be a big coup for Waterford.
So with this in mind, we all anticipated a cracking League final, but it was more like a challenge game in January. With both teams preparing to face each other in the Munster semi-final on the 5th of June, it was clear in the end that neither side was willing to give anything away.
Whatever about defensive set-ups, the lack of work rate and intensity brought to the table by both sides was clear as daylight. Neither team showed any real desire to take players on, to put in the big tackles or to attack at pace; three things that have been trademarks of both when they are playing well.
There was a small bit of agro on the sideline but Dan Shanahan was extremely quiet in comparison to his usual self. It wasn’t until his brother Maurice entered the fray that he looked to take a real interest in the game.
Both team pretty much played with one player inside the oppositions 45. Having played with sweepers trying to crowd the middle of the defence, no team ran the ball forward at pace like they have done before. The likes of Austin Glesson, Podge Collins, David Reidy and Colin Dunford made very few lung-busting runs at any stage during the game.
From a Clare point of view, Aaron Cunningham against Kilkenny and Aaron Cunningham against Waterford was like comparing chalk and cheese. He definitely didn’t display the same level of hunger. He scored 2-3 from play against the Cats and was withdrawn against Waterford.
Overall, this writer saw the game as a complete game of ‘Call My Bluff’. In the end the only people who got bluffed were the supporters. Both Davy Fitzgerald and Derek McGrath were perfectly entitled to take that approach to the game.
Neither manager wanted to give each other an inch as they prepare for the championship. The Munster Championship is a big deal to the two and both managers would swap a national title for a victory in that Munster semi-final.
So while it was an awful game, there was a straight forward explanation. Davy Fitzgerald and Derek McGrath called each other’s bluff in the end. And they probably got the result that neither team wanted. They now have to play each other again and potentially risk giving away whatever tricks they might have up their sleeves.
We are not saying that neither team wanted to win last Sunday, but they definitely didn’t want to give either side any potential advantage ahead of their meeting on June 5th.
So it was a long game of ‘Call My Bluff’. In the end they simply cancelled each other out.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.