*Clare goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARECASTLE’s Ger O’Loughlin, a two-time All-Ireland medal winner with Clare who subsequently managed the county team is “satisfied Clare have ticked all the boxes” heading into Sunday’s eagerly awaited Munster senior hurling championship opening tie.

Speaking to The Clare Echo in advance of Sunday’s first round tie between Clare and Limerick, Sparrow admitted, “I have been impressed with Clare and with the new lads, they have slotted in well, players like Adam Hogan and Conor Leen to mention but two. They have given us great alternatives while the return of Shane O’Donnell and David McInerney is also a positive. Panel wise we are stronger than ever but we have to transfer that to the field. On form you would have to fancy Clare”.

An All Star corner forward from Clare’s All-Ireland winning sides in 1995 and 1997, O’Loughlin said, “if it lives up to predictions, it will be exciting and it may come down to be whichever side makes the least amount of mistakes. A draw wouldn’t be the furthest thing from people’s minds”.

Noting that Limerick have had a month’s break since their last competitive outing he said, “they showed signs in that league semi-final against Kilkenny that they needed to put the heads down. A lot might argue that a team would be better off not to have been in the league final but playing Kilkenny is as good as a week’s training. Over the last two or three seasons there has been no more than a puck of a ball between us. Clare might be coming into this one with a bit more talent but we could be missing Tony Kelly. We showed decent form in the second half of the league final. We will need all that and more on Sunday”.

O’Loughlin feels that “it will be backs to the wall for whoever loses on Sunday. We have to go to Cork a week later while Limerick have to go to Tipperary who will be coming in fresh having a bye this week. Sunday is awful important for us. We are stronger this year and we have the strongest panel in a long time”.

The Clarecastle man isn’t as convinced as others about Cork’s prospects this year. “I am not convinced that they have found a solution to the defensive problems that were evident last year. They seem to have found a centre back and a midfielder while Alan Connolly at full forward seems to be on fire at the moment. While I see them as a danger I am not convinced yet”.

Like most followers of the game he agrees that “getting out of Munster will be difficult. You would have to think that there will be a kick in Waterford. If they have an ounce of backbone they will have to show it on Sunday against Cork. They have a few names back this week but their supporters, it seems, don’t have confidence in them”.

Getting back to the game hurling fans everywhere are talking about, O’Loughlin is “happy Clare are well capable of winning this week. We should have beaten Kilkenny by more, we opened the door and let them come back. If you take your foot off the pedal against Limerick it could be fatal. I hope we will be ruthless and if we go up a few points, we must press ahead and set down a standard for the year. As I said I am happy Clare have ticked all the boxes to date”, he concluded.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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