*Shane Golden. Photograph: Martin Connolly
One week on from an eight point defeat to Tipperary, Clare bounced back to overcome League champions Kilkenny with the midfield pairing of Shane Golden and Colm Galvin central to the success.
Not alone did Golden hit 0-02, he had the most possessions of any Clare player on the pitch whether it was mopping up ball towards his half-back line or offloading passes in the creation of scores. In the moments after the final whistle on Sunday, Shane could spot the major difference in the Banner’s two displays.
“It was contrasting to last week, I think last week we lacked a lot of aggression from the word go, we started off today with a completely different footing, we went out looking to nail down the first fifteen twenty minutes, hit them hard which we didn’t do last week. It was a real role reversal compared to what we did. I’m happy with some aspects, obviously the scoreline at the end was a bit tight but there was a few positives to take from it, if you can’t go out and be aggressive in these type of games at this time of year you’re going to be struggling”.
Although they dominated from John Conlon’s thirteen minute goal onwards, Clare certainly took their foot off the pedal and it is the key lesson Golden took from their outing. “The first half was ferocious, Kilkenny always bring that and anytime we play them you have to admire them and the way they play, a lot of teams try to copy them. It was very intense in the first half, the second half we started well, we got the couple of scores really early which was positive. The last little bit maybe we didn’t realise we were only three or four up towards the end and I thought there was a few soft frees that brought them back into it, we have to learn it isn’t over till it’s over and the whistle goes”.
Joint managers Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney have been affording chances to several young players during the past month. Shane who first made his championship debut as a substitute against Wexford in 2014 has been another to benefit, his inclusion has come after some difficult seasons battling with injury.
“Getting over the injuries has been the toughest part of the last few years, I’m delighted to be out there and fingers crossed I can stay fit and healthy. Obviously it’s good to be playing well but the team is the bigger picture, if I can play well and the team wins that’s the big part of it”.
Podge Collins’ second half goal “steadied the ship” but the Sixmilebridge man maintained their “game management” on the field in switching from long deliveries to short play really assisted in their victory. “The long ball at times wasn’t sticking or going to the right place so we have ourselves to blame for that but we adapted on the field having seen that. We did break tackles and hit ball in but it wasn’t sticking so we had to change plan a little bit and just run with the ball, it did pay dividends”.
“It’s a learning curve, we had a good Munster League campaign and were on a bit of a roll with that, the day in Thurles hit us hard and in a certain way we weren’t as prepared mentally as Tipp were. We’ve three more group games and have Cork in two weeks so definitely looking to every game to build, you just learn and move on, the games are coming thick and fast we just have to move on to the next game”.
Three games remain in their group but the UL student is well aware the countdown to championship will soon be upon them. “February is a short month, you don’t feel it until the League will be over, from that you’ve the club month and you’re right into it, the first game is May 12th I think so we won’t feel it. I know myself from experience, when you’re in you’re in and if you get injuries or if things go bad for you, you could be out and not get a look in again, the league is going to be a big building block for most teams but especially for us we’re trying different lads and plays, the championship will close in fairly quickly so we just have to keep building for that”.
Clare’s next outing against Cork which was due to take place at Pairc Uí Chaoimh will now be held at Pairc Uí Rinn on February 16th. A statement from the GAA noted the condition of Pairc Uí Chaoimh was “unacceptable” for Cork’s clash with Wexford on Sunday.
“The playing surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for last weekend’s Allianz Leagues games was unacceptable. The heavy pitch-side traffic, associated with the construction works for the new stadium build, has had a detrimental effect on the pitch. As was evident yesterday, in winter conditions, the surface is likely to cut up badly. However, as weather improves the grass roots will develop and playability will improve dramatically. The stadium team have engaged the Sports Turf Research Institute, who are international pitch specialists, to advise on the best way forward. Their preliminary results suggest a pitch replacement, later this year, will be required.
In the short term, we will continue to use best endeavours to ensure the surface is kept to an acceptable standard. Our primary concern is player safety, and if an acceptable standard cannot be achieved we will not risk player injury by fixing games in the stadium. The Cork v Clare Allianz Hurling League game scheduled for February 16th will now be played at Páirc Uí Rinn. Thereafter, we will assess the pitch each Monday, in advance of the upcoming Allianz League games, and advise CCCC accordingly”.