Ikem Ugwueru breaks through the challenge of Dylan Hyland. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill. 

CLARE’S National Football League is back on track after they came from nine points adrift to beat Offaly in Tullamore, it is the type of win that Mark Fitzgerald is hoping will lead to a positive bounce for next weekend’s outing versus Wicklow.

Having raced into a 0-02 0-00 lead, Clare’s performance waned and with twenty minutes to play they trailed by nine points with very few of their supporters or mentors thinking a comeback was feasible.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Clare manager Mark Fitzgerald himself admitted he thought the game was gone from them. “I think we kicked two or three wides at the start of the first half where we were on top but we weren’t putting it on the scoreboard. You would have just felt if you got one or two but it became obvious then that we needed a goal, we got lucky to be fair with the goal that came back off a ricocheted and we haven’t been getting that luck all along so it evens itself out”.

He is pleased that Clare are showing signs of learning from the first three rounds. “There’s a good bit of experience gone out of the group, I think we saw Emmet stood up in the second half, Alan Sweeney stood up and Brian McNamara is beginning to develop into a leader so it bodes well for the long-term but we need to go back to ground zero and get ready for next week”.

With four points from a potential six, the Kerry native is content with how Clare are faring in Division 3 thus far. “Offaly have no points but you wouldn’t think it for fifty minutes there, they were awful unlucky against Antrim and we were unlucky against Westmeath but we’re happy to be where we are but there is still a long way to go for us”.

Mark Fitzgerald. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

For things to come in the end on Sunday was a change in their fortunes given their second round loss to Westmeath which included a disallowed Cormac Murray goal. While Fitzgerald remains critical of the decision, he also acknowledged that Clare didn’t help their own cause two weeks ago. “It’s a bit of karma or whatever but you’d be more disappointed how the ball got from their kickout to give the referee that decision to make so we’ve got to learn from that but as I keep saying we’ve a couple of inexperienced lads, sometimes with that comes questionable game management but we’re learning”.

Game management was also lacking at stages in their win over Offaly, Fitzgerald acknowledged. “We went two up and we were controlling the game but then we proceeded to get into an awful phase of complacency, Emmet had a chance but he kicked it wide from their post, Danny hit the post then Ciaran kicked it wide, that started a spiral and it is hard to come out of that, to be fair the lads battled away”.

As a manager, it can be difficult to exert an influence when the opposing team is enjoying a purple patch. “You can make changes and hope they are they come good which they did today, we got great impetus for lads off the bench, they won it for us really but you are powerless really, your work is done during the week but there isn’t a whole lot you can do”.

Impact off the bench was among the most pleasing aspects for Mark when preparing to exit Tullamore. “You’ve lads that came in and played well, that is their second or third time doing that so now they are in line for a start and that creates healthy competition within the squad”.

They have little time to rest with a quick turnaround as Wicklow travel to Ennis this Sunday. “Sometimes players love that, if you’re playing well you want that, if you’re not playing well it is hard but it is seven games, it is a brilliant competition because it is so competitive”.

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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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