*Clare manager, Evan Talty. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

Clare make the long journey to Newry on Sunday to take on Down in the opening round of the All-Ireland intermediate ladies football championship.

Acknowledging that they face a difficult task, team boss Evan Talty is happy that the squad has prepared well for the competition.

“We played in the round robin section in the Connacht championship which was competitive but we couldn’t win the Connacht competition as we are already the Munster seeds. Getting to play in the Connacht competition was massive for us. We had a tough league in which we were missing players. We had a much m,ore settled team for the Connacht competition as we had a few players coming back into the squad such as Niamh O’Dea and Roisin Considine and they injected a good bit of life into the group. We won the three games comprehensively and being in that competition brought a good bit of competition for places”, the team manager told The Clare Echo this week.

As Clare have no opposition in Munster at this level they are automatically seeded for the All-Ireland and they have been grouped with Down and Louth in the round robin section and Clare will have home advantage against Louth in two weeks time.

Roisin Looney is out long term because of injury but apart from that the Clare management will have a full strength squad to pick from on Sunday.

There are a number of dual players in the squad and Talty and his backroom team will be keeping their fingers crossed that they will come through without injury when they play on this Saturday. Niamh O’Dea will be in action for the Clare senior camogie team in their All-Ireland championship clash with Cork while both Laurie Ryan and Chloe Moloney will have soccer games on this Saturday with Athlone and Peamount respectively.

“With the benefit of LGFA streaming we probably have seen all the Down games. They got to the Division 3 league semi-final where they were beaten by Wexford, they were unlucky on the day at Parnell Park. They got to the All-Ireland quarter final last year. They are a good outfit. It’s a 50/50 game in Park Esler. It’s a tough journey up on Sunday morning and playing a Northern team away from home is always going to be a tough game”, according to the Clare boss.

Continuing he noted that “Down lost the Ulster final to Tyrone two weeks ago by six or seven points and Tyrone beat us by six or seven points. It’s a very tight group and in intermediate there are probably eight or ten teams than can win the All-Ireland”, said the manager who was speaking after putting the squad through their paces at Caherlohan on Tuesday evening.

The Keane sisters of Miltown Malbay who are going travelling this summer and Caoimhe Harvey who captained last year’s squad are not part of the championship panel.

Éire Óg’s Orla Devitt is the team captain with Niamh O’Dea as vice captain. “We missed Niamh for the entire league this year and she was a huge loss but she is back now and played the Connacht games”, Evan explained.

Heading to Newry Clare followers will be looking to the experience of Niamh O’Dea, Laurie Ryan, Ashling Reidy who won an O’Connor cup with UL and Ellie O’Gorman to lead the way on Sunday.

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