Clare haven’t been in a Munster final since 2008, but before they puck a ball this summer they find themselves 70 minutes away from the provincial decider, with fiercest rivals, Limerick standing in their way.
At the launch of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship yesterday in Killarney, Clare joint manager Gerry O’Connor made it abundantly clear that Clare are looking no further than their bordering neighbours on June 4th, and believes his side are in good shape heading into the encounter. Despite going into the game as
Despite going into the game as favourites, the three-time under 21 All Ireland winning manager stated that the game will disregard the form book.
Having defeated Dublin in the Division 1A relegation play-off of the league this spring, O’Connor believes that game will stand to the 2013 All Ireland winners going forward this summer.
“The Dublin game did have that championship type feel and intensity to it, all be it without the conditions and the ground conditions not being what you’d expect in May, June and July time.
Definitely, that was the first time the players came under real pressure to perform, in the relegation play-off, and that will stand to them in good stead as the year develops.”
The co-manager sees the substantial lay-off between the curtain falling on their league campaign and their championship opener as more of an advantage than a nuisance. It will have been nine weeks since the Banner took to the field in a competitive match by the time they clash with the Treaty. Does that worry those in the Clare camp?
“Not really, because what you find is that it really gives you an opportunity to plan out and schedule your training.
You actually get nine or ten really meaningful training sessions in, rather than actually playing games, doing rehab and prepping again. So, I think in fairness, it’ll probably work really well for us,” said O’Connor.
Clare vs Limerick games in the Munster Championship are always a special occasion, particularly for both sets of fans with bragging rights across the Shannon up for grabs. With a spot in the Munster final on the line come June 4th, all tuning in can expect a full blown barnstormer yet again. Donal Moloney’s partner-in-crime had this to say about the upcoming edition of the age old rivalry:
“Look, I think any Clare-Limerick match takes on a life of its own.
“We’ve never experienced senior championship as a management team, myself and Donal, but we have come up against Limerick at u21 and minor level and all those games take on a life of their own.
“Form goes out the window, it’s a local derby and ultimately it’s the team that is most focussed and best prepared on the day that will get the victory.”
Clare have disappointed since scaling the heights of All Ireland glory in 2013 and it is now 19 years since the county last won a Munster Championship. Ahead of the challenge that John Kiely’s team will represent for them, is there added pressure on the Banner to deliver provincial honours this year, given the opportunity being drawn straight into a semi-final provides? O’Connor opines:
“No, I think from our perspective we’ve been targeting one game all year. If that brings pressure, then so be it, because that’s the one game we feel we will be explicitly judged on.
“All our preparations, all our focus has been geared towards delivering a top class performance on the 4th June. Ultimately, and rightly so, we feel that we are going to be judged on that day.”