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

CLARE manager, Brian Lohan says there is a feeling that their year was only starting after beating Wexford in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final while he pointed out beating Kilkenny in the National Hurling League final was a huge help in overcoming the Cats in Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final.

Speaking following Clare’s two point win over Kilkenny which secured their place in the All-Ireland SHC final for the first time in eleven years, Lohan explained that their win over Derek Lyng’s side in the National Hurling League final this season which marked the first piece of silverware won during his five year term as manager, as a turning point.

He outlined, “we put a big emphasis on the league final. If you can beat them whether league or championship, it’s a good sign. We were delighted with that win. We do see them as standard bearers and when you are rattling them we are happy with that. We put a big emphasis on the league, we needed to beat Kilkenny, we had lost two in a row to them. They do set the standard, okay Limerick have set the standard for the last while but Kilkenny do traditionally set the standard”.

Facing Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final for the third year in a row was not an easy task. “There is pressure associated with facing Kilkenny in the semi-final for the third year in a row having lost the last two. You don’t want to be the nearly team all the time. There is pressure and it’s about dealing with that, you can’t get over excited, you still have to make good decisions, and you have to try and do what you know you are good at. We didn’t do that in the first half, we probably weren’t let do that but the game is over 70 minutes, it’s not over 35 and you have an opportunity to re set and change things and we did that. Our players responded and we are delighted with that”.

Trailing by five points at half time and not having hit their stride, there was a sense of frustration within the Clare dressing room at half-time, the two-time All-Ireland winner said. “We were very frustrated with the first half. We had put down two really good weeks of training We had a good plan and felt we had a good idea of what we wanted to do but just didn’t do it. Typical Kilkenny, they blew us out of it in the middle of the field, that middle eight and they had huge space. We were defending reasonably well and weren’t conceding a massive score, it was very frustrating at half time, that we didn’t do what we had hoped we were going to do in that first half”.

Lohan continued, “There were so many fellas that didn’t perform in that first half that we just gave the guys another opportunity, Fair play to them, they toughed it out and did great in the second half”.

Kilkenny could have been far further ahead by this stage had it not been for four saves by goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan. “We had an awful lot of work done and to play as poorly as we did, we probably weren’t punished as severely as we could have been in that half. There was an awful amount of frustration but we did rally in the second half and our big guys stood up and you get that from working real hard and we have worked really hard over a long period of time and sometimes it’s just a case of enough is enough, we have to respond and we have to give our supporters something to cheer about and we can’t let them down again”.

Substitutes made a big difference for Clare with Ryan Taylor making his first appearance in over a year while Ian Galvin once again registering a score when introduced. “Ryan (Taylor) came in, he has got that serious amount of pace to be able to break the line. In inter county hurling, pace and skill are the biggest things, he has that and he gave us a good boost. Shan (Aron Shanagher) gave us a good boost also as did Ian Galvin as he has been doing all year. It’s very frustrating for Ian as well in that he is not making the team but he has shown great leadership in the group, he always responds and we are delighted with him”.

In the manager’s view “there were two sucker punches, really, the goal (Kilkenny’s second) and Eoin Murphy’s save from Aidan McCarthy which was another big potential turning point. Our lads showed a bit of resilience and a bit of maturity and got the next point, the next point and the next one, they played the game based on the next ball all the time. Kilkenny didn’t score from the fifty seventh minute and we reeled off six points in a row”.

Commenting on the resilience in the group he said, “we do have a good group, they do work really hard, they are a good bunch to work with, we are just delighted with them. We try and play moment by moment and try and get better each period of time we are playing. We knew and we feel we are a good team. Kilkenny are a good team, we came up thinking we are better and there was that pressure not to lose three in a row on the back of three in a row in Munster. Sometime you get fed up at that and it has to stop and things turn around when you work hard”.

Looking ahead to the final he said, “every team that gets to an All-Ireland final wants to win. There is pressure to win all the time. We have an ambitious group, they want to win All-Ireland finals, they want to win Munster finals and we haven’t done that. that’s the pressure, we are ambitious, we don’t be shouting about it but it’s there”.

“After the Munster final we took a week of and it left us vulnerable for the quarter final. It also meant when we did get over the quarter final we were in good shape. Since that game against Wexford it seems our year has just started, there has been really good energy in training for the last two weeks. Our players have a brilliant attitude and they are a great bunch to be around. There has been a very good atmosphere in the camp for the last two weeks,” he concluded.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

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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