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Blues braced for toughest opener

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*Mikey McInerney is ruled out for Friday’s opener. Photograph: Veronica McMahon

With the exhaust fumes of the 2012 title winning juggernaut fading inexorably into the distance with every passing season, Newmarket-on-Fergus’ priority list has understandably altered significantly towards moulding a whole new generation of flagship hurlers in recent times.

Management: John Tuohy (Manager), John McInerney, Marty O’Hanlon, Seanie McMahon, Pa McEvoy (S&C)
Captain: Sean O’Connor
Titles: 23
Most Recent Title: 2012
Key Player: Colin Guilfoyle
Fresh Blood: Peter Power, Kieran McMahon, Stephen Casey

Reliant on an ageing cohort, The Blues have had no choice to begin blooding new players. Transition was the initial intention of new manager, John Tuohy who guided Limerick to a first Munster senior camogie title in 2017. Relegated to Division 1B of The Clare Cup during Bob Enright’s final season, his successor had viewed the league as an ideal platform to introduce fresh players.

“We’ve just had to made do, we’ve no excuses, lads have been training and working hard so while we do have a few injuries. A hamstring injury has quashed the availability of centre-forward Mikey McInerney while doubts remain over the fitness of Niall O’Connor and Colin Ryan.

“Being honest, it’s just great to be back on the field and to have everyone coming back training with a smile on their faces and enjoying the whole camaraderie and the social aspect of hurling too. It’s a strange time for players but at the same time, they’ve embraced it quite well. I mean the younger players in particular have been very frustrated over the past few months but look, they’re back now and we’ve had three or four challenge matches that they’ve enjoyed.

“Currently, we have 11 or 12 Under 21’s being blended into a senior panel and that inevitably takes time so trying to give guys game-time has been difficult but we’ve done our best to give as many of them games as possible.”

And while their championship opener this weekend is their first competitive outing of 2020, youth will still get its fling for the Blues as the relegation trapdoor has been removed from the equation this season. “In fairness to the county board, taking away the relegation factor was a fantastic gesture and a very, very clever thing to do. It takes the pressure off clubs and allows them to blood players and play their championships without having to look over their shoulders at relegation plus they’ve kept the Senior B Championship which is another very, very good idea. With so few matches this year, it’s another trophy to play for. Obviously everyone will be looking to try and win the A but who knows what the form guide will be this year as Clare is always very, very competitive.”

The draw threw up a repeat of the 2008 senior decider which Clonlara edged, only 12 months after coming up from intermediate level. And while 12 years have passed since, Clon are still the team to beat in the race for ultimate glory.

“You couldn’t ask for a tougher start. Clonlara have some very, very good hurlers on their team, have a lot of players who played for the county between minor, Under 21 and senior. So they certainly have been standard-bearers in Clare for many many years and while they mightn’t have reached their full potential on occasions, they’re still an extremely hard team to beat. That said, we’re looking forward to the challenge on Friday to see how it goes”.

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