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*Brian O’Connell. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Clare’s minor hurling boss is hopeful the Banner support will be out in force as they stand sixty minutes away from appearing in an All-Ireland decider.

As the final touches are being put to Clare’s preparations for Friday evening’s All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final meeting with Offaly at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Clare manager Brian O’Connell is happy that all players are fit and well. “Thankfully we have a clean bill of health and ready for the game”, the Wolfe Tones man confirmed earlier this week.

“They are a good team and we will have our hands full. Any team that wins the Leinster title and beat the teams they beat along the way will be handy”, he added.

When teams at this age group begin their preparations, it is normal to arrange a series of challenge games and while both counties did play a lot of friendly games in the lead up to their respective championship campaigns, they did not play each other. “We haven’t met this year. We had a game arranged but it was cancelled earlier in the season due to a clash with other fixtures”, Clare manager O’Connell said.

The former Clare senior captain is hoping that Clare’s poor form against Galway “was our only hiccup. We have freshened things up since then. We identified straight away that lads were physically and mentally tired but things have freshened up a lot since then”.

He admitted that he is concerned that there might not be a big Clare following at the game. “It is difficult for Clare followers with this game late on Friday evening and having to travel again early on Saturday. If people are picking and choosing they may opt to attend a senior double header. I hope that our clubs and the underage development squads will make an effort to get to Thurles for Friday evening.

“There was a great attendance in Limerick for the Munster final and the lads fed off that. It does make a difference. I am conscious of the difficulties facing the supporters but, hopefully, many will get to Thurles on Friday evening”.

The Clare boss readily agrees that “it would be fantastic to win and get to the All-Ireland final. There is a buzz in all aspects of Clare GAA at the moment, after the footballers’ win last week. It would be great to keep that rolling on with another win”, he concluded.

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