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*Brian McNamara was one of the top performers for the U20s. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’S U20 football manager has expressed the belief that the county’s football sides are closing the gap with the giants of the province.

In the only knockout championship in Munster this year, the U20 football campaign drew to an end for Clare on Easter Monday when six points separated them and Kerry at the final whistle. The result doesn’t tell the whole story as for large parts of the game, the Banner were in control and led 0-07 0-04 within a minute of the second half but Kerry 1-06 without reply to turn the game on its head.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, U20 manager Michael Neylon was adamant the county is continuing to close the gap with Kerry. “The positives are very good after tonight like they have been all year, there’s a great group of players there who work very hard, everything we’ve asked of them they’ve managed to perform for us. We would be disappointed with the last fifteen minutes, we were in the game, the challenge for all of us here in Clare is to keep closing the gap on the Kerrys, tonight is a step in the right direction”.

“I felt we worked very hard at winning the ball back, we managed to turn over Kerry but our ball retention on some of those occasions definitely needs to improve, after a lot of good work we probably handed it back to them a bit too easy and that put us working again and we probably exerted a lot of energy in those early stages of the game which wasn’t there at the end. Ball retention would be my number one takeaways from tonight”.

Neylon believed strength and conditioning was the key area to inspect in order to bridge the gap further with Kerry. “There is renewed focus on strength and conditioning from minors upwards to make sure we’re doing the right thing, we probably find that physique when we go out against the likes of Kerry we are probably a few percent behind them at the moment, that is something that can be easily addressed with the expertise we have in the county, we have definitely closed that gap over the last few years, it is great to be able to match Kerry for forty two minutes but we need to keep going and match them for sixty minutes”.

Those outside the camp may argue that players like Doonbeg’s Tadhg Lillis and St Breckan’s forward Jamie Stack who left the panel at various stages must be on board if Clare are to take major scalps.

When asked if the absence of such talented players was a factor, Neylon responded, “Inter-county football is a serious choice, it is a lifestyle choice for guys, we’re lucky that a lot of guys do make the choice, it is a good choice, they get a lot out of it but it is not for everybody, there’s different phases in guys’ lives when they need to commit to other things whether it is studies or whatever. I wouldn’t be focusing on that side of it to be honest with you, we were delighted with the commitment we got from the group of players who formed a group of their own this year, the crowd could see the heart and spirit as well as the really good football that is in these players”.

 

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