Game-changer: Clare's Gary Brennan and Podge Collins key to Limerick's undoing
The classic little-man big-man combo.
Clare's Munster win over Limerick on Saturday was based on two key factors: the dominance of Gary Brennan around the midfield sector as he kicked 0-4 during the game, and the ability of Podge and Sean Collins to implement a running game that cut Limerick apart time and time again.
That running game has been a feature of the Cratloe hurling and football sides for the last decade and it's understandable with a Cratloe man in charge, Colm Collins, that Clare are benefiting from the know-how of the south-east Clare outfit in both codes.
Even from the throw-in it was obvious what Clare were hoping to do as Eoin Cleary makes space for Brennan to gambol right down the wing and kick the opening score after a few seconds.
It was a classic hurling move-draw the full back line out of position and use runners to fill the space.
Limerick were warned, but failed to take note
There was another example in the first half as Brennan takes up a pass from deep and launches a monster point. Cathal O'Connor turns back knowing that Brennan is making the run despite having the option of kicking or fist passing to another colleague.
Brennan on the move is almost unstoppable as he is physically strong and an excellent point-taker. 0-4 in the first half alone was a huge total from the Clondegad man and team captain.
The running style is something that manager Colm Collins - who wasn't on the sideline as he's serving a ban - has been known for with the club outfit for years.
Podge as the spearhead at full-forward even if he doesn't play there as such, and Sean as the lively wing forward means it's almost impossible to keep the former hurlers quiet.
The younger of the brothers drags defensive setups out of position and allows runners - in this case Shane Brennan - to punch through the Limerick cover and almost score a goal. A simple pass to Collins and it would have been surely a certain score.
Most forwards would have been happy to make the lay-off. Collins follows up on his run.
Stamina, skill and pace.
Collins is not just a player who creates, but in a fantastic cameo, shows that he is well able to score with a wonderful two-footed exhibition of play.
He picks the ball up in the corner forward position and is still 30 metres from goal with at least four Limerick men to beat.
Here he uses the evasion skills taught to him in hurling to weave him way through four players before launching a point effort at the posts while still holding his balance
When he does take his point there is a still an option of a lay off or a pass to another colleague, who's making a diagonal run to breach the Limerick defence.
The only issue Clare may feel needs to be addressed is converting the goal chances their free-running system creates.
Cork will be well aware of screening Podge in the Munster semi final, and if a chance is butchered as it was in the second half when Rory Donnelly failed to spot Gary Brennan's run, then it will prove costly.
Podge Collins comes all the way out to midfield to pick the ball up and lays it to Sean Collins who feeds Brennan.
He kicks to Donnelly but you can see that he, along with Sean Collins, have huge room to run into once again after the nominal full-forward's move out the field has opened up a one-on-one inside.
The substitute does well to engineer a score, but at a time when Limerick was forcing their way back into the game, a goal may have killed off their momentum.
Look where Brennan is when the shot for the point is taken.
A simple handpass and he could have added a major to his total for the afternoon.
Clare's running game could come-a-cropper against a blanket system, but with Collins' mobility as well as Gary Brennan's support play, defences will have to come up with some form of tactic to try and keep the players quiet.
Podge Collins made his name in 2013 as one of the most skillful players in the hurling. It seems the 2015 All-Ireland football championship may also belong to the diminutive Cratloe man.
Not just a game-changer, but a match-winner.