*Clare’s Aaron Griffin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Lissycasey’s Martin Daly and Éire Óg’s Barry Keating are both well versed on what it means to play senior championship football for Clare.
Both have big day experience with Banner sides and both have played in Provincial finals.
Understandably, they are both excited about this season’s campaign which begins for Clare on Saturday evening when the Bannermen will entertain Shannonside neighbours Limerick at Cusack Park(throw in at 6p.m.).
This year’s draw sees Kerry and Cork on the one side which means that Clare, Limerick, Tipperary or Waterford will contest the Provincial decider.
“We had this carrot a couple of years ago and we didn’t take it. Tipperary did and they won the title. I believe that if we had met Cork that year we would have won. I’m hoping that Clare will have learned from that disappointment and that they will be more primed. Maybe Tipperary were a lot better that we gave them credit for but we didn’t play to our league performance on that occasion”, Martin Daly, an All star nominee in 1997 told the Clare Echo
According to the Lissycasey man, “this is a great opportunity and we are lucky to have home advantage. We are an established Division 2 team and keeping our status keeps momentum and keeps spirits high. Now we have Limerick come up from 4 to 3 and from 3 to 2 and that brings a lot to the camp. They have a very good S&C coach in Adrian O’Brien. They are putting a lot more into football now. Having Paul Kinnerk in the background in Limerick football is a massive advantage for any team, it’s a massive plus. His record is second to none”.
Daly continued, “I don’t think Colm (Collins) will take Limerick for granted and he won’t be looking past this game. He will have Clare fully tuned in and focussed. Limerick have a lot coming to the table and Clare will have to be fully tuned in”.
“You would hope that having the game in Cusack Park will be a help, Clare will be hoping to get a good crowd to the park. Home advantage is always a plus. It’s easier when you train there. You do have your bearings a lot faster and it helps, where you are going to shoot from, with kick outs etc,” concluded the talented forward.
A Clare championship winner with his native Éire Óg, defender Barry Keating agrees that “there is a lot of expectation. Colm (Collins) is there a long time and he has been unfortunate in the fact that Clare have almost always come up against Kerry in the championship. Because of this year’s draw there is anticipation and, fingers crossed, we are hitting form. The banana skin would be Limerick, Clare have had a great league. We started well, finished strongly, hopefully we can get off to a good start in the championship”, he said.
“Every player is always told to concentrate on the next game. For the lads that are there for a while, there is a huge incentive to get to a Munster final, which is a fantastic occasion. We are probably the most established team in division 2. We are probably a bit off the top 4 or 5 teams but on a given day we can put it up to them,” Keating maintained.
“All involved will be hoping to get a good start, it’s important to get a touch early and get an early score. If we do that and get three or four ahead we can then push on. The last time we met them we scraped over the line. It will be important to establish superiority early on. The big result over the weekend was Galway beating Mayo, we didn’t play well against Galway but we started like a house on fire. We have played against these teams that have put up big performances”, said Keating who resides in Lissycasey and is now an active referee.
“The hurlers had a good win over Tipperary in their first round. There is momentum in the county. Lads are chomping at the bit. Hopefully there will be a big crowd at the game. Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary, like ourselves will all fancy their chances. When the draw was made they all fancied having a crack at getting through to the final. Limerick won’t have any worries about Clare, they will concentrate on their own game. If we play to our potential we should win”, concluded Keating.