*Eoin Cleary celebrates after the final whistle. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Beating Tipperary in Semple Stadium on Sunday and in the process relegating the Premier County and Cork was a game to savour according to Eoin Cleary.
Four points was Cleary’s contribution on the scoreboard, though his return earlier in the Allianz National Football League having been sidelined following an operation has been a huge boost. A beaming Eoin speaking after the final whistle was thrilled with the outcome and their character.
“It was unbelievable, best day in a Clare jersey by far because it was such a pressurised game and it looked gone from us but we came out on top, it was just the heart that everyone showed all over the team, we dug in. Gary spoke during the week about having to play for 75 minutes, I don’t think we scored for 30 minutes and Keelan got a goal and we still always had faith we would be able to come up with the goods when it mattered”.
For him the celebrations brought back memories of overcoming Roscommon in Pearse Stadium three years ago which set up a first ever All-Ireland quarter-final appearance. “I remember when we played Roscommon in 2016 there was that kind of a buzz on the field after, you didn’t want to leave it, you would have stayed there for hours talking to people and chatting to those who supported you through thick and thin. Today was one of those days, it was great to put a smile on so many Clare people’s faces, there was a few of the hurlers up supporting us, we love to see that and it’s great to put a smile on the people that have backed you through thick and thin, there was some buzz out there today it was savage”.
Not all teams would be keen to contest a relegation decider as preparation for championship but the Limerick based Garda maintained it would be of big benefit ahead of their May 11th quarter-final against Waterford in Cusack Park. “Tipperary are a team with All-Ireland semi-finalists in their squad and you could see that, they’ve great experience within their squad and they kept coming at us even when we had massive momentum with the David Tubridy goal. I think it was a great game for both teams before championship because it was end to end stuff, it was real championship pace and I don’t think we’ve played a game like that this year”.
“In other years you might have nothing to play for and we knew it was a real championship game and you don’t get these games usually in the league, your faith might have been decided by the last game or second last game. With the crowd behind you and the Tipp crowd on your back you just want to come out on top and thankfully we did and what a day to be a Clare footballer,” Eoin concluded.