A NINTH CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON begins for Colm Collins as Clare senior football manager this Saturday and he’s determined that it will be a memorable one.
It’s the familiar territory of Cusack Park in Ennis as Clare host Limerick with the prize of a Munster SFC semi-final against either Tipperary or Waterford on offer.
Saturday’s clash will be the fifth championship meeting between the sides during Collins’ tenure with Clare emerging victorious in each of their encounters in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 on margins of two points, three points, one point and twelve points respectively.
Limerick’s rise under Billy Lee from Division 4 to lining out in Division 2 of the Allianz National Football League is similar to that of Collins with Clare. “They’ve done brilliantly, they’ve got great results and are deservedly in Division 2 next year, they are a formidable outfit, we need to be at our best to beat them but what other way would you want it in championship,” the Kilmihil native outlined.
Managing Clare for nine years at senior level was never part of the plan, Collins admitted. “A ninth championship season was something that wasn’t in the long-term plan, it is a long time but it has been very enjoyable. When you’re dealing with such a great bunch of lads it makes the job very easy. It is a tribute to them that we’re still around, if they weren’t such a brilliant bunch of lads, we probably wouldn’t be still with them”.
Under his watch, the standing of Clare football has risen, success in climbing to the second tier in the NFL is a highpoint so too the 2016 run which included championship wins over Sligo, Laois and Roscommon resulting in the county’s first All-Ireland SFC appearance.
They have created memories to cherish but Colm is anxious that the bank is added to courtesy of the 2022 championship. “We could do with a really good run in the championship though. We would love a good run in the Munster championship which we haven’t really had in that time”.
Since the 3-16 0-13 Munster final defeat to Cork in 2012, Clare’s senior footballers have not contested a provincial final. They were managed by Micheál McDermott on that occasion, he might not vocalise it but one can sense Collins is eager to lead the Banner to a Munster Final appearance, anything is possible from there.
Munster Finals are not in Clare’s line of vision presently though with all focus on Limerick. For only the second time in Colm’s senior tenure, they have avoided Kerry in their side of the provincial draw, this last happened in 2020 and what followed was one of the more disappointing displays of the Collins era when a three point loss to Tipperary ended their season at a sopping Semple Stadium.
“We’ve avoided that side of the draw this year, I’m very conscious that all teams on our sides fancy their chances of progressing. There is nothing guaranteed here, we’re playing a team on Saturday who will be playing in Division 2 next year, they are a good side and have put in a lot of work,” Colm told The Clare Echo.
When he addressed the senior panel at one of his first meetings in the winter of 2013, Collins spoke of his goal to see Clare become one of the top twelve teams in Ireland. On where the county currently ranks, he replied, “We’re hovering around there but we’re getting greedy and we want to push on further”.