IN THIS business we know that apparent certainties have a capacity for treachery, although it
is a little piece of knowledge we manage to suppress with ease.
The bookmakers have made Clare even stronger odds-on favourites
to win this match than they did for the first Munster final. You
will remember that only one team could possibly win the first
Munster final. It ought to be enough to make us think that today's
match is a two-horse race; if only intellectual leaps were our
In the aftershock of upset we remind ourselves, sternly, that
this business of forecasting is not a science but that it is full of
Most of these are linked to human nature and ego is the most
powerful of the lot. It may be that Clare will win this match
easily, but there must be a chance that enough Offaly players will
not care to be undressed in front of 40,000 people in Croke Park and
hundreds of thousands more watching on television.
But how far can that carry them? When Offaly were at their best
three or four years ago they played with a devastating simplicity,
they move the ball quickly and the quicker they played it the more
spread the play became. However, that dynamic has gone from their
Too many of their players are second to the ball, too many of
their players are not able to compete at the level of intensity
required and, for a couple, their touch has been dulled by age.
Most of the half a dozen new young players that Offaly have tried
this summer and last have not measured up and a few of the older
players look spent, or satisfied, or both. If Offaly detail a man to
mark Jamesie O'Connor it is most likely to be Kevin Martin, but if
O'Connor starts on Brian Whelahan's wing they are unlikely to switch
him. Clare will probably force Offaly to make that choice. Whelahan
would not relish trailing O'Connor all over Croke Park, no more than
he relished it against Larry Murphy in the Leinster final two years
The composition of the Clare team will probably deviate more from
the published selection than for any of their other matches this
summer. Liam Doyle is extremely unlikely to play and it must be
doubtful that they would give young John Reddan his competitive
debut in an all-Ireland semi-final.
Michael O'Halloran will probably come into the corner, with
possibly Christie Chaplin playing at wing-back. It is hard to
believe that Fergie Tuohy did enough in the last match to start
today; perhaps Ger O'Loughlin will take his place or even Connor
Clancy. Clare seem to believe that Clancy's ball-winning capacity is
of more use in the tighter spaces of Croke Park than the wide
expanses of Thurles.
Against Wexford or Waterford or Kilkenny, you would expect Clare
to be at least a little vulnerable today, but this Offaly team has
had its day. Perhaps they will leave the championship with one good
performance and a degree of pride but this is another of those days
when we can foresee only one, linear plot line. Fools are not easily
separated from their folly.