*Adam Hogan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill.
THE RACE for what is predicted to be one of the most competitive Munster under 20 hurling championships for some time begins for Clare on Saturday as they take on Tipperary.
Current All-Ireland minor champions Tipperary will have a big number of survivors from the under 20 team which lost to champions Limerick in last season’s championship.
In the opening round last year Clare went down by the minimum margin to eventual winners Limerick while they suffered a two point loss to Cork, another of the fancied sides for this year’s title. Those two losses ended Clare’s involvement in the 2022 competition.
The format is different this year with the five competing counties in Munster (Kerry are not involved) playing in a round robin format at the end of which the top team will go to the final with the next two playing a semi-final.
Whitegate’s Terence Fahy is in his second season as Clare manager and his backroom team includes Tomas Kelly, from Inagh/Kilnamona, Brendan Bugler from Whitegate and Rob Mulcahy who is the squad’s S&C coach.
Feakle’s Adam Hogan, one of a number of players who are also part of the senior county panel, will captain the under 20 side.
Others who are part of both the under 20 and senior panels are Oran Cahill (Éire Óg), John Conneally (Clooney/Quin), Patrick Crotty (Scariff), Keith Smyth and Ian MacNamara (both Killanena) and Oisin O’Donnell (Crusheen) and all are expected to be in the starting line up on Wednesday. Cahill missed out on last year’s campaign due to injury.
There has been a slight change in relation to allowing players who are part of both the under 20 and senior county panels to play at this grade. In recent seasons players who made an appearance with their county senior team in the championship could not play at under 20 level. This year the rule is that any player who is part of both panels cannot play two games in seven days.
Players likely to miss out on Wednesday’s first round due to injury are Oisin Clune from Feakle who was wing back last year, Gearoid Sheedy (Ogonnelloe), Rory O’Connell (Clarecastle) and John Cahill (Clooney/Quin).
Players promoted from last year’s minor team include Fionnan Treacy (Éire Óg), Jack O’Neill (Clooney/Quin), Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara) and James Organ (Corofin) and they wll be pressing for game time on Wednesday.
Tulla’s Aaron Shanahan is likely to get the goalkeeper’s jersey over Newmarket-on-Fergus’ Adam Enright while Adam Hogan, Ian MacNamara and John Conneally are amongst those pressing strongly for starting places in the defence.
Sean Rynne (Inagh/Kilnamona) a member of the 2020 minor team and Jarlath Collins (Éire Óg), a member of last season’s under 20 team are amongst those tipped to feature from the off.
The squad has gone through a stiff training programme in recent weeks during which time they played challenge games against Offaly, Galway, Wexford and a number of college sides.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Fahy stated, “it a tough schedule but a very fair format with two home and two away games and one would expect that the best team will win in that format. With the games coming in quick succession, it will take a panel effort. We are happy with the work that has been done and hopefully we will get a few players back from injury in time to play”.
Clare’s schedule is as follows; at home to Tipperary at Cusack Park on Saturday at 2pm, away to Limerick on March 29; away to Waterford on April 12th and at home to Cork on April 19th.