*Clare senior hurling manager, Brian Lohan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Clare will be “going as strong as we can” according to manager Brian Lohan when he and his management team sits down to name the side which will line out against Westmeath in the opening round of the Allianz National Hurling League.

Cusack Park in Ennis hosts the tie which commences at 2pm. “The league is ideal preparation for Munster championship. We will be going as hard as we can but we are conscious that we do need to find a couple of players”, the All-star full back said earlier this week.

Asked about the challenge that Westmeath are likely to present he said “we have seen over the last number of years that the standard is very even amongst all the teams. When we played Offaly last year there was one point between the teams with ten minutes to go. Westmeath have had some impressive results recently, they drew with Wexford last year, they had a good Walsh Cup campaign, they beat a strong Antrim team and they were close with Dublin”.

It will be later this week before the Clare management finalise the starting team for Sunday. Shane Meehan (Banner) and Darragh Lohan (Wolfe Tones) are ruled out for the first round and are unlikely to feature in the opening games of the campaign due to injury.

“We have a number of players with soft tissue injuries and groin strains but we hope to have them back for some of the league. Then we have to be mindful of the Fitzgibbon Cup and some of our players are facing three games in six days next week”, Lohan explained.

According to the Clare boss “there is no easy solution to this situation (Fitzgibbon cup and league fixtures in close proximity). There is so much pressure on players who have an awful lot of matches to get through when you add in the under 20 championship”.

Adam Hogan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Seven members of Lohan’s squad are also part of the under 20 management which is managed by Terence Fahy. They are Adam Hogan (Feakle), Oran Cahill (Éire Óg), Patrick Crotty (Scariff), Oisin O’Donnell (Crusheen), Keith Smyth and Ian MacNamara (both Killanena) and John Conneally (Clooney/Quin). All seven are pressing hard for game time on Sunday when the team is expected to include a mix of youth and experience.

Clare face Munster under 20 championship games on March 22(v Tipperary), March 29 (v Limerick), April 12 (v Waterford) and April 19 (v Cork).

Amongst those expected to provide the experience are Conor Cleary, David McInerney, David Fitzgerald, John Conlon and Tony Kelly who will continue as the team captain for 2023.

With five games in seven weeks, the Clare management team is sure to have the opportunity to give game time to many of their panel. They play Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday February 11, Wexford at Wexford Park on Sunday February 26 before finishing with home games Galway on March 11 and Cork on March 18.

Clare’s Munster senior championship campaign will begin on April 23 against Tipperary in Cusack Park.

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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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