*Cathal O’Connor. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
KEELAN SEXTON and Cathal O’Connor are set to miss Clare’s Munster SFC quarter-final while a major injury doubt has also emerged.
Colm Collins’ charges welcome Limerick to Cusack Park on Saturday evening in what will be the county’s first championship meeting since 2018.
There are four definite injuries among the Clare panel with Keelan Sexton, Cathal O’Connor, Alan Sweeney and Darragh Bohannon to miss out. Bohannon underwent an operation following their second round draw of the Allianz National Football League against Cork while defender Sweeney remains out of action with a shoulder injury.
Key forward Keelan Sexton looks like he has lost a race against time to bounce back from a hamstring injury sustained prior to their final league game against Down. The Kilmurry Ibrickane attacker had been an ever-present member of the Clare forward line for the entirety of this year’s League winning back the jersey from Gavin Cooney and Joe McGann.
Midfielder O’Connor’s fitness had been monitored closely in the lead-up to Saturday’s game but he has not been deemed fit enough to line out against Billy Lee’s Limerick.
A fresh injury headache has presented itself with goalkeeper Stephen Ryan picking up an injury in training earlier this week. The Kilrush Shamrocks custodian has been Collins’ first-choice goalkeeper since making his championship debut in 2019. The Clare Echo understands that the chances of Ryan featuring this weekend are now highly unlikely with either Tom O’Brien of St Josephs Doora/Barefield or St Breckans’ Tristan O’Callaghan in line to make their championship debut.
In better news, experienced defenders, Sean Collins and Kevin Harnett missed the entirety of Clare’s league campaign through groin and ankle injuries respectively. The duo have returned to full-contact training in the month since Clare’s eight point final round win over Down.
A hamstring injury put a small dampener on what had been a very impressive debut league for Éire Óg’s Manus Doherty. The corner back started all but one of Clare’s seven NFL encounters with the injury forcing him off in their one-point loss to Meath.
Full-back Cillian Brennan also sustained a hamstring injury in the Meath loss, the Clondegad clubman enjoyed his best league campaign in the Clare jersey this year and has also recovered to press for inclusion in the last line of defence alongside Doherty.
Podge Collins is also back in the mix after hobbling off in Clare’s away defeat to Galway. The Cratloe attacker’s workrate is a vital pillar to Clare’s effective manner of turning over possession and putting together counter attacks at speed.
Ex Clare minor captain, Dermot Coughlan who in recent seasons has suffered two cruciate ligament injuries and a broken ankle has returned to action with his club Kilmurry Ibrickane in the Cusack Cup in what is a big plus. The Mary Immaculate College student will have to clock up some more game-time before he comes back into contention for the county side where he will once again act as a valuable option for attack.
Clare boss, Collins confirmed to The Clare Echo that the trio of Brennan, Manus and Podge have overcome their injuries and are fit for selection. The Cratloe clubman observed that the various injuries highlight the importance of the panel, “It is the nature of championship that every team is going to be down a couple of players, it is to be expected, it is part and parcel of it. We’ve a big panel of players training hard together and they are putting in a major effort to make themselves available for the county”.