*Michael Neylon. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Clare U20 football manager Michael Neylon believes that Clare football is being steered in the right direction.
By Ivan Smyth
After a disappointing Allianz Division 2 league campaign for Colm Collins’ seniors which resulted in relegation, Neylon is still positive about the talent coming through.
However, U20 level has proven difficult for Clare in the past. Last year saw Clare secure a first championship victory over Tipperary in 26 years before coming unstuck against provincial roll of honour leaders Kerry.
Neylon, now in his fourth year at the helm, is seeking his first championship win outside of county borders. With the provincial campaign being run on a straight knockout format, Clare will need to conjure up a win on the road to set up a semi final showdown with Kerry.
“This is an away year for us. Most of our games have been away (in the Liam O’Connor Cup) and if we progress we will have to keep playing away. We have been working on this mentally as we need to be really clinical especially when away. We are delighted with the players coming through so we have a lot up for contention for starting places”.
Saturday, March 11 was a memorable day for Clare football. St. Joseph’s Spanish Point, where Neylon teaches, were crowned All Ireland PPS Senior D football champions while that evening Clare won the Liam O’Connor Cup, one of a number of development leagues across the country.
“That was a special day for the school and for the Clare team that night. The St Joseph’s Spanish Point players were introduced to the crowd. Looking at those young men that we have with Clare they have all come together very well. I was up there at the All-Ireland final and a lot of the Clare players travelled up. That win did the world of good for the squad and also for the clubs of West Clare. That was the first breakthrough for some of them lads. (CBS) Ennistymon last year got to an All-Ireland final so step by step we are getting to where we want to be”.
Although the Miltown Malbay man reports no new injury concerns, Brendy Rouine and Brian McNamara may be unavailable for selection. The duo are part of Colm Collins’ charges as they face Cork in a crucial opening round championship fixture this Sunday. As both this and Monday night’s U20 clash with Tipperary in Semple Stadium fall within the seven day window as illustrated in the new Senior/U20 eligibility rule, if either man features in Cusack Park then they cannot line out the following night.
“I think it’s madness really. I can see the point and all but it shouldn’t be happening. You are excluding sportspeople and it’s they who suffer. Fixing two games in such close proximity shouldn’t happen anyways but the rule needs to be looked at. If you consider the Sigerson, players could be playing three times in a week. Now that’s not right either but we are now taking the other extreme. It doesn’t make sense”.
Clare defeated Tipperary on the way to lifting the Liam O’Connor Cup but Neylon expects a difficult task next Monday. “They will be a different beast. They are tough and hard working so we have to be the same. Traditionally at U20 level home venue counts for a lot. So when we step off the bus it will be very different to Cusack Park, Miltown or Quilty. I expect them to be defensive so we need to be ready to make our mark on the game”.