*Josh Moloney. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’S U20 footballers begin their championship bid this Saturday in Lemybrien, it is their first outing but the panel of players are determined “to take the next step” in building on the progress shown at the grade.

Last year it took extra time for Kerry to defeat Clare in the U20 semi-final in Tralee. Josh Moloney was corner back on the side and has now assumed the role of joint captain.

Their showing with Kerry has been “massive” in building the confidence and belief of panellists, he said. “There’s always that thing of when you’re playing Kerry that lads might be a small bit afraid, last year showed there is no reason for that, we were within a kick of the ball with Kerry last year, we could have won it and this year we want to take the next step further and be beating the likes of Kerry, getting to Munster finals and be knocking on the doorstep”.

There is an air of excitement among the panel as they prepare for their first championship run out, the Kilmurry Ibrickane clubman said, “everyone is ready for road, this week is just about keeping things steady, going back over what we’ve done all year, we won’t be going too heavy on anything this week, we’re all looking forward to it”.

Playing with his club’s senior side over the past two seasons has been “massive” to Josh’s development. “Any time you have lads playing club senior is a massive boost and I’ve been lucky with a club like Kilmurry Ibrickane that I get to come in play with a lot of experienced heads so you learn an awful lot from players like that, they are great and help anyone coming in which is a massive advantage”.

This experience has been very helpful when it comes to U20 inter-county football, Moloney maintained. “You can see the older lads, the lads that are on the last stage of U20s, we have three age groups here and the lads on the oldest age have one or two years of senior or intermediate played that are a bit more mature on the field and able to shore things up a bit, they are the lads you look to in the last ten or fifteen minutes of a game to mind it and do the right thing”.

Moving from the knockout format of the U20 championship is a big plus, the Quilty man felt. “Everyone is really looking forward to it, last year you were into the first game and it was win or go home, you might have only had a bad day on the first day and that was it your year was over so now everyone has a chance, we are guaranteed three games so there’s great opportunities to get championship games because that is what everyone wants to play, championship matches”.

A first year environmental science student at the University of Limerick, Josh claimed a Division 1 All-Ireland league medal with the college as part of their freshers side.

Looking at the strengths, Clare’s U20s bring to the table, Josh said, “We’re a fit team, we work hard and we like to turnover the other team and battle, we thrive off getting tackles in and getting turnovers in, if you can’t get a score from turning the other team over that is massive for us, that will be huge for us going forward in the championship, if we can hit teams hard with intensity, we have speed, fitness and power behind us so that is what we want, hit teams hard and fast early that is our biggest strength”.

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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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