*Clare senior football captain, Gary Brennan with mascot Chloe Downes. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Clare’s senior footballers are on the road again and head for Carrick-on-Shannon as their 2019 All-Ireland SFC campaign kicks off.
Leitrim and Clare meet in the senior football championship for the first time on Saturday, both sides having exited their respective provincial campaigns to Division 1 outfits.
With only one home defeat to their name in 2019, that being the 0-24 0-10 Connacht semi-final loss to Roscommon, Leitrim off the back of reaching their first ever League Final this year come into the game having knocked out Wicklow in round one of the qualifiers.
Their record at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada has not gone unnoticed by Clare captain, Gary Brennan. “On the road for qualifiers we’ve had great support and backing over the last few years, hopefully that’s the same on Saturday and I’ve no doubt it will be. It will be a tough test, Leitrim have a very good record, they are unbeaten there in the League this year, they will be anxious to keep up that record and we will be eagerly anxious to break it”.
Brennan has featured in Division 4 League outings against The Green and Gold, Clare having prevailed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 but Leitrim did secure a one point win in 2011. “I can never remember having an easy game in Carrick-on-Shannon, I don’t think we beat them very often in those years up there. Carrick-on-Shannon is a tough place to play, they take a lot of strength from playing in their home ground and they are very proud footballing people in Leitrim and they certainly aren’t going to fear us coming up on Saturday evening,” the midfielder reflected.
For Clare the 6pm throw-in is a chance to bounce back following their six point Munster semi-final exit to Kerry. To do that, Gary maintained they need to take aspects from their second half display against Peter Keane’s side and bring it for the full seventy when doing battle with the two time Connacht senior champions.
“Our work rate improved in the second half and our tackling count obviously improved. Our use of the ball was a bit better, we’d be looking for that basic level of intensity in championship football no matter who, where or when you are playing”.