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Growing concern over delay in senior football manager appointment

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*Colm Collins. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Concern is growing within Clare GAA and particularly amongst football followers in the county at the fact that a Clare senior football management for 2021 has not yet been put in place.

It is understood that outgoing boss Colm Collins has met with members of the executive but so far nothing has been finalised with regards to his position for 2021.

Collins led Clare to retaining Division 2 in the Allianz National Football League status back in October but a week later there was disappointment when the team lost out to Tipperary by a goal in the Munster championship quarter final played in Thurles. Tipperary went on to win the Munster title beating Cork in the final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In the days after Clare’s championship campaign ended for 2020, players came out strongly in favour of the Kilmihil native continuing as manager.

The fact that the start of the 2021 inter county season is scheduled for the end of February when the league is due to commence has heightened concern over the situation. In a shortened league Clare are grouped with Kildare, Laois and Cork

Inter-county squads were due to be allowed to commence training this week but, following further restrictions introduced due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the training start up date has been deferred to February at the earliest. There is an expectation that a further delay in the date for training to resume is likely which would surely lead to a delay in the date for the competition to start.

While such a scenario would buy Clare some time to get the matter resolved, it’s unlikely to ease the concerns that exist amongst players and supporters.

The Clare Echo understands that while members of the panel, particularly younger members of the squad, have been following a fitness programme provided by the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Rob Mulcahy, worry remains over the fact that a manager has not been appointed.

Cratloe clubman Colm Collins has been at the helm for the past seven years during which time Clare moved from Division 4 to Division 2 in the NFL where they have remained for the past four years despite predictions each year that they would be relegated.

In that time the team has delivered some memorable championship performances which saw them get to the 2016 All-Ireland quarter final.

Clare under 20 boss Michael Neylon was recently ratified to take charge of that squad for 2021 while he has also agreed to return as manager of his club senior side, St Josephs Miltown.

Having led Clare to the provincial final just before Christmas, Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s Dermot Coughlan is expected to continue as county minor manager for 2021. In the event of Collins vacating the senior role, both Neylon and Coughlan would be on a short list to replace him.

Despite the concerns there is a belief that whatever difficulties exist will be resolved particularly with the recent appointment of Collins’ fellow Cratloe clubman Jack Chaplin as Clare GAA chairman.

Seamus Hayes is one of the most well-respected local sports journalists in the country. For close to fifty years, the Lissycasey native was Sports Editor of The Clare Champion. Subsequent to his departure from Barrack St, he began writing for publications including The Clare Echo, The Clare People and The Irish Daily Star. He has won multiple awards during his distinguished career including accolades for GAA, Community Games and Camogie coverage.

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