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GAA Analysis: Sweeper Fails Clare; Gillane Inspires Limerick

GAA Analysis: Sweeper Fails Clare; Gillane Inspires Limerick
By Matt Hurley Updated
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After a dramatic All Ireland SHC semi-final weekend, we now know that the 2023 All Ireland final is a repeat of last year.

Limerick ripped apart Galway by 2-24 to 1-18 after an impressive second half showing.

Kilkenny had to get over a much trickier test but ended up beating Clare 1-25 to 1-22 after a thrilling encounter.

Here are six statistical takeaways from hurling weekend in Croke Park.

Kilkenny v Clare

Ruthless Kilkenny

Much of the talk going into this hotly anticipated semi-final was Clare’s shooting.

After hitting 24 wides last year against the Cats and after being punished for poor shooting by Limerick, Clare forwards had to deliver.

To be fair, the Banner did to an extent. 58% would be a good number on any other day.


The focus at the end of the game was on Kilkenny, though. 

76% shot accuracy in an All Ireland semi-final is superb shooting and it was the best percentage out of all four counties over the weekend.

That stat wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It was at 69% against Galway in the Leinster final and 71% against Limerick in the 2022 All Ireland final.


Most people would agree by now that the Cats forwards are lethal and deadly accurate. TJ Reid managed to take 12 out 15 shots against Clare while Eoin Cody got 6 out 8 on target. 

Adrian Mullen, Billy Ryan and Tom Phelan are well able to shoot too.

Limerick defenders won’t find it easy in dealing with the Kilkenny attacking threat.



Key moments cost Clare

In the post match interview, Clare boss Brian Lohan was critical of referee Colm Lyons’ performance on Sunday.

While the Cork man did make a few strange calls, including the Mark Rogers disallowed goal, he wasn’t the reason the Banner lost.

Donal Óg Cusack articulated this on the Sunday Game and he was largely right.



Key moment number one: Eibhear Quilligan hits a short puckout, Clare gets dispossessed, TJ Reid lays it off, Eoin Cody goals.

Key moment number two: straight after Shane O’Donnell’s wonderstrike, Walter Walsh gets fouled by David McInerny for a free in, despite the super sub looking to have run out of run.

Key moment number three: Richie Hogan seems to be cornered and had nowhere to go, Diarmuid Ryan barges him over, another avoidable free in.

The last two examples in particular lost it for Lohan’s side. From being on level terms to being two points down. Maybe the lack of Croke Park experience caught up with them and it will come in time.

The sweeper fails for Lohan

Going into the game, Clare were synonymous for playing front foot hurling and getting in their opponents faces from the off.

On Sunday, with the late change of Séadna Morey in for Ian Galvin, the Banner played a sweeper system.

This was a questionable call from many seeing as they didn’t adopt this against Limerick when they tested the All Ireland champions all the way to the end.

Clare conceded seven frees in the first half, around five were scorable, TJ converted every single one.


Kilkenny had more shots than Clare in the opening spell (20 to 17), contrasting that to the second half and Clare dominated the shot count (22 to 14).

They brought Morey off and Galvin on at the interval, binning the system.

The Banner opened up in the second half and caused the Leinster champions serious bother with their explosive play.

Imagine if they did that from the start, we might be reflecting on a different result.

Limerick v Galway

Gillane is the man

After this weekend, most would now have Aaron Gillane as the frontrunner for hurler of the year and why wouldn’t they?

He bagged 2-6 on Saturday, 2-1 from play, taking his tally to 3-42 in the championship with 3-13 coming from play.

What’s more, he’s scored 3-4 from play against Clare and Galway combined and has converted 80% of his attempts into scores in those two matches combined.

The guy loves the big stage.

The goal in the first half was arguably more crucial as it kept John Kiely’s team afloat while Galway had their purple patch.

It was a surprise that RTE gave their Man of the Match to Darragh O’Donovan, who did have a good game himself.

The Patrickswell man is a class apart.

Galway switch tactics

The Tribesmen had Limerick on the ropes in the opening half and at one stage led 1-12 to 1-6 as Cathal Mannion struck a wondergoal.

Most people on social media argued that the game turned when Nickie Quaid had contact lens trouble, there was a more significant event to turn this game around however.

With around five minutes left of the first spell, Henry Shefflin signalled to Conor Whelan that they were leaving one up in the forward line for the remainder of the half.

At the time, it was clear why Galway did this: to conserve energy for the obvious Limerick onslaught in the closing half.

In the end it massively backfired. Instead of a comfortable lead, Galway went into the dressing rooms just a point up.

Limerick outscored Galway 0-6 to 0-1 in the last six minutes of the half to give them much needed confidence.

We all know what transpired from then on.

Puckouts prove important

Limerick won 26 of their own puckouts out of a possible 30. For hurling, that is incredible.

Unfortunately for Galway, their puckout retention percentage wasn’t so kind.

They won 21 out of 40, just over 50%.

They had eight long puck outs in the second half that went past their own ‘65, they won just two (25%).

It was clear even from watching the game that Éanna Murphy struggled with these all evening and especially in the closing half.

Limerick pushed up and midfielders such as Darragh O’Donovan got a lot of joy in hoovering up lost Galway possession.

It is an aspect of the game Kilkenny will have to focus on if they are to pull off the shock in two weeks time.

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