JOHN ALLEN KNOWS he’ll be going up against one of hurling’s big thinkers when he takes on Davy Fitzgerald this weekend.
The Limerick boss’s side face off against Clare in the last four of the All-Ireland SHC at Croke Park on Sunday with a spot in the decider with his native cork on the line.
Fitzgerald has earned a reputation for tactical acumen during stints with LIT, Waterford and now his native Banner but Allen says they’re well acquainted.
“I suppose you factor in that it will be fairly full-on tactics,” he said at the side’s press night at the Gaelic Grounds last week.
“I won’t say a game of chess, but we will both need to be very tactically aware of what the other is doing. We played them a good number of times, we played them once earlier this year in LIT in a challenge game. The players know each other well. Anyone who played knows that there are certain players you don’t like playing on or against and I’m sure it will be the same with the Clare and Limerick players who have played each other pretty often.
“It is [very tactical]. We have discussed that with the players before the last two games. Things happen in games, a corner-forward comes out to midfield or a centre-forward comes out a bit. You had the last day when Clare played a sweeper. Galway never seemed to use their spare man in the half-back line properly. You had particularly Podge Collins dictating the play with a Galway back loose and it didn’t make sense to me. I think we have discussed that often enough with the players now that they know what to do if a corner-forward comes out to midfield, or if they are trying to isolate, which Clare have tried to do in the last two games, Darach Honan inside and give him plenty of space pumping the ball into him. There will be a lot of tactics in involved in this game, definitely.”
The Shannonsiders go into the game after a five-week lay-off since their Munster decider win over Cork at the Gaelic Grounds.
“Five weeks is a fair old break,” agrees the St Finbarr’s clubman. “At the same time I think the way things have panned out for us, we trained hard, came back on the Wednesday after the Munster final, we trained hard the week after, played with their clubs after that. They all came through uninjured so we now have a two-week run in; it’s like going back to school after term. You were glad to be meeting each other again.”
Allen of course was part of Donal O’Grady’s set-up with the Rebels before taking over the side for a successful stint of his own in the middle of the last decade. How have things changed since he bowed out in 2006?
“The strength and conditioning has gone up a huge amount. I have no doubt the footballers were doing it before the hurlers were doing it but now the hurlers are doing it and I would say that and nutrition, there is way more attention to that sort of stuff. The hurling training is more or less the same. Players are definitely stronger.
“Whoever wanted to get up to Kilkenny’s standard — and Tipperary did once — you had to find some way of matching them,” he adds.