*Sean Rynne. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’S U20 hurlers begin their efforts to set the record straight when they kick off their championship campaign on Friday evening.

O’Garney Park in Sixmilebridge hosts the meeting of Clare and Limerick at 7pm this Friday evening in the first round of the U20 Munster championship.

Terence Fahy is now in his third season as U20 manager with Brendan Bugler exiting as coach to join Brian Lohan’s senior set-up. Replacing Bugler is ex Galway hurler Aidan Harte who coached Crusheen’s senior hurlers last season as they reacted the county final. Tomás Kelly remains involved as a coach and selector ensuring the management which guided St Joseph’s Tulla to a first-ever Harty Cup title links up at inter-county level for the first time.

Adding to this link is the fact that Feakle’s Ronan O’Connor who captained the East Clare school to Harty Cup glory will lead his county into battle for the U20 championship.

Ex Clare goalkeeper, Andrew Fahey of Whitegate is the goalkeeper coach for the side while Conor Shannon a talented footballer with St Breckan’s is the S&C coach.

Fahy has had to deal with different competition structures for the first two seasons so year three will bring further learnings gained from the 2023 campaign which saw them reach the Munster final. “There was two games in the competition in our first year, it became a full round robin last year and it’s the second year of that, I think that the round robin is here to stay, it is the optimum format for developing young players and everybody is delighted with it from a development perspective, we had our first run at that last year, we learned a bit about it and we hope to bring the learnings from that to this year’s campaign”.

This is the first campaign as U20 manager that Terence is not combining the role with that of Whitegate manager, having stepped down from the club position last season. “I find it good that I’m not diluted and I have a singular focus, this year’s group was the minor group that struggled, that has helped from my point of view of having that that singular focus”.

At minor level, the U20s were subject to a 6-28 0-6 quarter-final defeat to Cork in 2021, there was no round-robin or second bite of the cherry for that campaign. The defeat was among the darkest hours for Clare hurling, coping with the scars of this has resulted in Fahy drafting in both Julia White and Hugh O’Neill working in a backroom capacity on sports psychology with the panel.

“We’ve two people Julia White and Hugh O’Neill involved in a backroom capacity with our group which we didn’t have last year or the year before, it’s not a big part of our focus, it was a cold day in Clare hurling but we’re not dwelling on it too much, we and Clare hurling have moved on a long way since,” Fahy told The Clare Echo.

Sean Rynne captained the team at minor level and this season has received game time during the Allianz National Hurling League. The Inagh/Kilnamona clubman is the only panellist currently on Lohan’s senior squad. Clooney/Quin duo Jack O’Neill and John Cahill have impressed at senior level for their club, they along with Niall O’Farrell of Broadford will be viewed as the experienced members of the side.

Player availability has been an issue that the U20 management have had to overcome. Firstly Leaving Certificate commitments has resulted in some players opting to concentrate on their studies.

Injuries have also impacted on team selection with Senan Dunford (ACL), Diarmuid Stritch (knee), James Doherty (hamstring), Callum Hassett (leg), Cian Kirby (shoulder), Fionnan Treacy (osteitis pubis) and Jack Mescall (osteitis pubis) all ruled out.

This has forced the addition of several members of last year’s All-Ireland and Munster winning minor panel “by necessity”, Fahy admitted. He told The Clare Echo, “unfortunately we have a lot of last year’s panel out through injury and that means the reserves have to step up. Some of them are members of last year’s minor panel, we have a new fresh team which is exciting, we’ll be comparatively young which is not a bad thing, Cork and Offaly were young last year whereas we were a seasoned side”.

Eoghan Gunning and James Hegarty are two of the minor graduates pushing for game-time this week.

For Friday “the focus is on getting a performance and driving into the next phase,” Fahy explained. “We’d two games in five days last year, it’s very similar to the senior format with two games in a week, you pause after that reboot and go again, it is intense starting out and then a break to go again, it is a round robin which will be competitive”.

Clare U20 hurling panel: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge), Adam Enright (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Ronan Keane (Killanena), Evan Maxted (Clooney/Quin), Eoghan Gunning (Broadford), James Hegarty (Inagh/Kilnamona), Aaron Hayes (Clarecastle), Eoin McMahon (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), John Cahill (Clooney/ Quin), Scott Cairns (Scariff), Ronan O’Connor (Feakle), Tony Leyden (Tulla), Ian Williams (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Ronan Kilroy (Banner), James Organ (Corofin), Piaras O’Se (Ruan), Conor Whelan (Whitegate), James Doherty (Clarecastle), Jack O’Neill (Clooney/ Quin), Liam Crotty (Scariff), Niall O’Farrell (Broadford), Jack Mescall (Inagh/Kilnamona), Dara Fitzgeral (Sixmilebridge), Oisin O’Connor (Feakle), Shane Woods (Inagh/ Kilnamona), Fionn Ryan (Tulla), Senan Dunford (Tubber), Dannan Fox (Clooney/ Quin), Dara Moroney (O’Callaghans Mills), Michael Collins (Clonlara), Fred Hegarty (Inagh/ Kilnamona), Sam Meaney (Wolfe Tones), Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara), Jamie Moylan (Cratloe), Sean Rynne (Inagh/Kilnamona)

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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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