*James Curran collides with Tipperary full-back Jack Nevin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CLARE’S U20 footballers targeted improving the county’s away record in the Munster championship, manager Michael Neylon has outlined.
For the first time since 2012, Clare recorded an away win in the grade when they overcame Tipperary 1-11 0-11 in Thurles on Monday evening. It sets up a semi-final clash with Kerry in Austin Stack Park, Tralee this coming Monday.
Having won the Liam O’Connor Cup, a pre-season competition at the grade, Neylon admitted it brought an extra level of expectation on them. “It was always going to be a tight affair coming down to Semple Stadium and Tipp’s home patch, we had a certain amount of pressure on us and we knew that from the beginning, we were favourites we knew that going into it and that brings a certain pressure on guys but they did very well, they were very professional out there and stuck to the job, they didn’t give up, they finished it out while under pressure, they got to the position where they needed to be in those last few minutes and managed to create some turnovers and opportunities for us up front”.
Starting the game with a goal from Mikey Kelleher and ending the opening half with an unanswered tally of 0-03 via Thomas Collins, Brendy Rouine and Sean McMahon served as an important platform in the win. “Those couple of points before half time were crucial for us, it gave us a huge lift and it put Tipp back in their box a little bit. We knew Tipp were going to come out strong and throw everything to it, the game was slipping from them, they had nothing to lose so they just poured forward, it made for a nervy finish”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Miltown Malbay native noted that winning the county’s first away fixture in over a decade at the grade was vital. “That really makes this special, we had talked about it, we’ve gone back with the players through the results, it’s really pleasing that this group is one that has managed to set a positive trend for away fixtures so we’re delighted with that”.
He added, “We place huge value on workrate, our workrate was there tonight, we’re happy with that. Our tackling, pressurising and pressing was quite good to me, it is a great basis and foundation for a lot of the stuff we do, it created a lot of the chances and kept us in the game when maybe we were making mistakes but recovering well from them”.
A former selector to the county senior side, Michael was pleased with the impact they got off their five substitutions including Doora/Barefield’s Tom Curran who kicked 0-03. “All the five guys that came in did excellently, that is a difficulty for us and picking the twenty guys to play, we would have huge confidence in the next ten after that as well, I’m delighted that the five guys who came in did so well and it just shows the interest and alertness they have and the ability to take up the mantle and finish it out for us which is what we’re asking for”.
Curran’s clubmate, Fionn Kelleher who was centre back for the side at minor level will miss the Kerry tie through injury. “We don’t know how long (he is out for), it is indefinite, he’ll be out for another few weeks anyway,” Neylon stated.
Travelling to Kerry is a challenge for his charges to embrace. “We’re looking forward to it, that’s what these boys talk about and it’s what they want, we will get planning and plotting our trip for there next Monday night, we didn’t think about them until this minute and we can turn all our attention to Kerry in Tralee now. Tonight would have stood to us in navigating that test”.