Coming away form O’Moore Park on Sunday evening, there were plenty of thoughts whirring around the average hurling fans mind.
For those fans of a Clough-Ballacolla persuasion, the chief concern would have to have been the lack of cutting edge up front. THe club have built up a formidable reputation on the field over the last few years as they won their championships, and the chief reason for that was because of their attack.
When they hit form, the semi-final against The Harps last year being a case in point, they were irresistable. Willie Hyland caused mayhem whenever the mood took him, Stephen Maher was devastating in open play, Mick Dunphy always seemed to poach a goal and Willie Dunphy was a danger every time he got the ball.
On Sunday, apart from Willie Dunphy’s two excellent goals, the ruthless efficiancy Clough-Ballacolla’s attack are renowned for was glaringly absent. They hit wide after wide, with each one leaving both players and spectators scratching their heads. Granted some were hit under pressure, but many weren’t. A lot were from frees or form positions where they would normally score, and to see the six forward play so badly after years of unrivalled brilliance was something of a shock.
The Rathdowney-Errill defence deserve huge credit, they were forceful, strong and disciplined throughout, keeping pressure on the Ballacolla players as much as possible and really stamping their own authoirity on the game, but that won’t help the reigning champions to accept what happened.
They don’t have too much time to rectify the problem, but must also feel that after this performance, the players themselves will know they have to be considerably better. All are capable of much more, regardless of the opposition, and that will be expected of them in the replay. The equation for them is simple too; if they don’t rediscover that killer instinct, they won’t retain their trophy.
It’s not just the forwards that have room for improvement either, with Mick McEvoy having a quiet game at midfield, and some of their defence really struggling too. Darren Maher had a torrid time on Ross King, who dragged him all over the full-forward line before he was then moved out to centre-forward.
It was surprising that Clough-Ballacolla didn’t opt to move John A Delaney on to King to try and curb his influence, as he was the only Rathdowney-Errill attacking threat at times in the game. Maher will learn from this game too and if the players meet once again on Saturday, then he will know that there is much more he needs to do.
Of the two teams, Clough-Ballacolla probably have the more room for improvement, especially when you consider that they only took the lead for the first time in the 61st minute. There is certainly more in them, but Rathdowney-Errill won’t let them bring it out to easily, so it will be a big battle for them to get back on track in the replay.