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*David McNamara gets a bounce from Conor Gavin’s tackle. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLONDEGAD HAVE expressed relief to record a first round win in the Clare SFC while Ennistymon are scratching their heads as they react to another below-par championship outing.

Strengthened by the experience of surviving a relegation battle in 2021, Clondegad began this year’s campaign by coming out on top in a tense affair with Ennistymon in Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first time since 2018 that the men from the Shannon Estuary have prevailed in the opening round. “We’re thrilled because the first day is an important day and we haven’t had much look on the first day for the last few years, today was a good day. I think it was a great game, fair credit to Ennistymon, they pushed us to our limits but we got that bit of luck and thank God we got through it,” a pleased Clondegad boss Martin Brennan said shortly after the final whistle.

Their experienced players shone with Podge McMahon netting 2-00 while Gary Brennan was at his best, remarkably it appeared that Ennistymon hadn’t a counter-plan for the former All Star nominee, he started on the edge of the square and alternated between there and centre forward, simply proving a handful due his aerial ability and tactical acumen.

Martin explained, “Podge is around a good while, he’s one of the more experienced players, we thought we would try him in the corner today and fair play to him, he came up trumps, we’re delighted for Podge because he is at training every night and puts in a savage effort as all the lads do”.

He was slower to shower praise on his eldest son, Gary. “He was going well today but it was a massive team effort from all the lads that contributed today and the guys that didn’t get on that trained all year, hopefully those lads will keep continuing to do that for the direction we hope to go in. We’re not the finished article by any means, we’ve plenty to improve on, it’s a good start and we’ll take it”.

His youngest son, Cillian is expected to play a part in round two when they meet Doonbeg where a win would likely guarantee a quarter-final spot. “Cillian possibly could have played today but we’re very anxious to fix this problem, he had it as a recurring issue in the county, it came back, he only trained with us really for a weekend and it came back again, we’re anxious to get the man right and have him for the full length that we’re in the championship”.

Character has been gained by Clondegad’s recent relegation battles, the Sligo native affirmed. “The history of us in the last twelve months is that we’ve been in the relegation play-offs for the championship and in the league with Éire Óg it worked out as a kind of relegation match which we won, it brings on the character of players to win those matches and today it was a help to us, we learned how to dig it out”.

On the other side of the coin, Ennistymon featured three championship debutants while five of their eighteen players to line out over the hour completed their Leaving Certificate earlier this summer. When it came to the battle, they didn’t shy away, Mark Shanahan felt. “We had a very young team and a very young panel, in a full-blooded affair it was well contested and very fair, it was hard hitting, they weren’t found wanting in that department and it’s one area we won’t be looking back on, they were good in that regard. Shooting efficiency and the concession of the goals were costly”.

Now in his third different tenure as Ennistymon boss, Mark pointed to the eleven missed chances and concession of two green flags as decisive factors in the result. “The shooting efficiency and the concession of the goals, we wouldn’t be happy with them, that’s it in a nutshell, effort was super, it’s great to see young fellas handle that type of a game but we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board as regards some of the defending in the first half and some of the scoring in the second half or lack of it. I’m absolutely very proud of their effort”.

Without Sean Rouine, Sean O’Driscoll and Darragh Conneely, three regular starters, the North Clare men were fortunate not to pick up fresh injuries in a competitive championship encounter. They meet beaten finalists Kilmurry Ibrickane in the second round and are under pressure to get a result. “It’s so competitive anyway, even the first game you could say was already must-win, we’ve our backs to the wall now but we’ll take it and drive on from it”.

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