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*Éire Óg’s Ciaran Russell adds experience and talent to their defence. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

As Clare senior football champions Éire Óg go into this season’s campaign with a slightly different mindset according to their manager Paul Madden.

“Everybody will raise their game to play us. We are in a very difficult group and we are under no illusions about that. Our opening tie against St. Breckans is a massive game”, the popular Temple Gate hotel manager said this week.

Paul admits that “all clubs want to beat the champions. Our first round game is a massive one. They were probably the favourites going into our semi-final meeting last year. They were disappointed to lose that one so they will be determined to win this time. Our focus is on them and theirs is on us and it’s going to be tough”, the champions’ manager said.

The Ennis side’s management team is unchanged from last season with former players Peter Cosgrove and Shane Daniels as selectors and they have all given long service to the club as players.

Like their hurlers, they played much of the league campaign without many of their key players due to their involvement with county panels. Indeed for many of their league games they would have been without up to ten first team regulars from the championship winning side and this contributed to their relegation from division 1 for next season.

Conall Ó hÁiniféin will miss this year’s championship. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Conall Ó hÁiniféin and Nathan Murray from last year’s championship winning side miss out this year. O’hAinifein is out with a long term injury suffered during the league while Murray had emigrated, his absence has pushed selector Shane Daniels between the posts.

There is a big lift for the side with the return from injury of defender Cathal Darcy, he missed last year’s championship winning campaign due to an ACL injury. Danny Griffin of Crusheen has also returned to the side having been abroad completing his studies and offers more physicality to their side.

Management: Paul Madden (manager), Seanie Buckley (coach), Peter Cosgrove, Shane Daniels (selectors) Rory O’Brien, Tom Russell, Victor O’Riordan (S&C)
Captain: Gavin Cooney
Key Player: Manus Doherty
One to Watch: Gavin D’Auria
Fresh Blood: Danny Griffin, Oran Cahill
Departures Gate: Conall Ó hÁiniféin (injury), Nathan Murray, Tadhg Connellan, Dara Walsh, Eimhin Courtney
Titles won: 2 (2000, 2021)
Last season’s run: Champions. Finished top of their group ahead of Lissycasey on score difference. Went on to beat Ennistymon (quarter final), St. Breckans (semi-final) and Kilmurry Ibrickane in the final
Round 1 v St. Breckans
Round 2 v St Joseph’s Miltown
Round 3 v Corofin

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