*Conor Kearney wins back possession for Clare. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill. 

A CHANCE TO face off with Cork and Kerry while renewing rivalry with Tipperary is the reward for Clare’s U20 footballers after securing their passage to phase two of the provincial competition.

Clare overcame Limerick by six points on Saturday to bounce back from their two point loss to Tipperary a week earlier.

Manager Michael Neylon was very pleased with how they responded to the setback. “They are a great group and they have got better in every minute of the championship, we started down in Waterford and did a job, they really put in a good shift last week in Quilty and didn’t get the points that we were chasing but by God they came here today and played two matches in one match so I’m delighted for them and really proud of them. It is a great, it is a new competition and new round-robin so it is great to be at a standard that we’re through to the next phase”.

What began with three goal chances in the one attack was an indicator that Clare meant business even though it took them eighteen minutes to register a score, captain Odhran Cunningham from Killimer getting them off the mark.

Michael Neylon. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Once they found their shooting boots, there was no stopping Clare and Neylon underlined their industrious approach. “We actually didn’t feel the pressure, we went with the flow, we came down here today to play what we wanted to do and implement what we do, we called it that workrate was going to be the big thing and I haven’t seen a team working as hard as that in a long time, they got what they deserved today and I’m delighted for them”.

Having lost to Tipperary, the Miltown Malbay man said they had to treat the Limerick encounter as knockout. “We knew it was knockout but we never really said it, we were looking at today as an opportunity, we bought ourselves two opportunities against Waterford, today we finished the job, we knew we had a chance coming here today, they took their chance”.

Letting a result slip from their grasp as they did against the Premier County also offered some learnings for Clare’s U20s. “They were disappointed but they were intelligent enough to realise that they played very well as a team last week and committed very well to one another, they could trust one another and they were the words we could use going out today to trust one another and they did, they are getting better which is a great sign of a group of young lads”.

Three further games in the championship are now guaranteed for the U20s which poses a big aid to the development of Neylon’s players. “This is exactly what the round-robin presents to us, it gives us a chance which we have now navigated and managing to get six championship games for a group, there’s been times where you might not get that for four or five years and now we have it all in one year so it’s something we’re seriously looking forward to”.

A former Clare senior selector and two-time SFC winning manager of his native St Joseph’s Miltown, Michael is well aware that they will have to bring a considerable jump in their performance to be matching the teams in phase two.

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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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