*Enda O’Halloran and James Murrihy watching from the stand. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
Clare’s ladies footballers are showing strong form at the right time, selector Enda O’Halloran maintained ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland intermediate semi-final.
Following a dramatic third round which saw Laois shock Kildare and Clare overcome Sligo by 7-18 0-02, the Banner County advanced to their first last four clash since 2016. The manner in which such events transpired were described by selector Enda O’Halloran as “extraordinary”.
As Clare gathered for an early morning training session in Quilty on Sunday, the Kilmihil man was on media duties, manager James Murrihy was busily carting items into Páirc Naomh Mhuire and began searching for an extension lead to carry out some video analysis in the stand, coach Ger Keane was offering one on one advice to players on what to expect this coming weekend, selector Evan Talty was sipping coffee while goalkeeper coach and sport scientist Conor Shannon dusted off the gloves and PRO Micheál Talty conducted temperature checks and kept everything running smoothly.
Workloads of personnel involved in inter-county teams has risen noticeably, Enda admitted. “It’s huge the work that management put in, it’s massive, it’s not a Wednesday, Friday, Sunday gig, it is nearly a five day gig between video analysis, studying the opposition and everything, James’ job is probably seven days a week. Some people will say why have ye so many in the backroom team but nowadays you need that to get everything done and everything right for the girls”.
Managing communications via Zoom and WhatsApp has proved to be “tricky,” the 2017 Clare IFC winning manager acknowledged. He is confident they will have a full panel to pick from for Saturday’s semi-final versus Meath, a side they are familiar with. “They are a fine team, they’ve been in the last two All-Irelands, they have some really good players and would be strong around the field with Aoibhín Cleary, Vicky Wall and Emma Duggan, they are a serious outfit and we’re going to have to be really on it to get a result”.
Trying to peak at the right time also forms a challenge for sporting teams, the signs from the third round win over Sligo are promising in that regard for Clare but a much tougher test awaits in Portlaoise.
Learnings of encounters throughout the year are being adhered to, Enda said. “The first day against Kildare I felt we were probably as good if not better than them but our finishing wasn’t where it wanted to be, the lads have done an awful lot of work on that in the last couple of weeks and unfortunately for Sligo, they felt the brunt of that. The likes of Amy Sexton came in and it was more about being cool in those positions rather than rushing chances like we did against Kildare but I think the girls have learned over the last few weeks and thankfully they showed that against Sligo”.
Numerous tasks have been completed by the management, the most pressing is to now select a starting fifteen, one which will won’t be easy given the impact six changes made prior to the Sligo game. “We have a panel of thirty, you take one girl out and put another in you’re not really losing a whole pile, the standard is very high within the girls and they are all pushing each other for a starting position for next weekend which is great and it is a great headache to have”.