*Clare captain Eoin Cleary. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Eoin Cleary will take to the field in his first championship outing as Clare captain on Sunday without the backing of the Banner Roar.
As the Clare senior footballers finalise preparations for their Munster senior championship meeting with Tipperary at Semple Stadium in Thurles, team captain Cleary believes “it will be a real nip and tuck affair. That has been the case over the years when Clare and Tipperary meet”.
“An interesting game” is expected by the St Josephs Miltown clubman. “We both know each other well after the last few years when there has only been a kick of a ball between us”.
Based in Limerick as a Garda, Eoin doesn’t believe Tipperary have an edge due to the game being held on home soil in Semple Stadium. “We have played in Thurles before and we are familiar with the ground. They might see it as an advantage. We had a good win over them in a crucial league tie there last year. That was a real nip and tuck game and there was only a kick of a ball in it. We had to claw our way back after they had started well”.
Buoyed by the retention of their Division 2 status, Cleary said the defeat to Armagh was a disappointment. “It was in our own hands.. At the end of the day we saw how disappointed Cavan were to have been relegated. We can count ourselves somewhat fortunate to have stayed up in the end but thankfully results went our way on the day”.
Both Clare and Tipperary have the same objectives for the Munster championship, he believed. “Tipperary have the same ambitions as us in that they want to get to the Munster final but they won’t be looking past Sunday’s fixture. You can’t look past the next game. You must take each game as it comes. We knew we had to beat Fermanagh and Armagh to get promotion but, unfortunately, we only won one of those games. We know that we need a big performance on Sunday to get a result”.
Training has been lifted with the presence of Gary Brennan, Jamie Malone and Podge Collins have re-joined the panel, men who “don’t owe Clare anything”.
“We are aware that Tipperary have strengthened their panel also. They have a got a few additions which will give them confidence. We will have to be at the top of our game to get a result”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the centre-forward acknowledged that the recent club campaigns has acclimatised players to behind closed doors competitive matches. “While it would be nice to have the roar of the Clare crowd to spur you on down the home straight, we have got used to this following the club championship. We miss the atmosphere and our supporters have always given us a great lift. The club season gave us a bit of an introduction to this”.