With the Allianz Football and Hurling leagues finishing up in the next week, the 2014 Championship is fast approaching. John Ivory takes a look at the Munster teams and evaluates each County’s chances in both codes for the coming year in the Province. This week he looks at Clare.
Manager: Davy Fitzgerald
Clare finished top of the Division 1A pile on seven points. However, their form was patchy throughout. Wins over Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford were mixed with a draw with Galway, and losses to Dublin, and then Tipperary in the Semi Finals.
Registering three victories in the intensely competitive Division 1A is a very good achievement, but Fitzgerald will not be happy with their inconsistent form. They have managed to keep most of last year’s panel together and also introduced a couple of new faces.
The tag of All-Ireland Champions will cause every team they face to raise their game, and this is something the Banner will have to adapt to. Clare await the winners of Cork and Waterford in the Munster Semi Final. Not many would bet against a repeat of last year’s epic All-Ireland decider between Clare and Cork. Fitzgerald maintains his charges have a long way to go before this match on June 15th, but you can be sure they’ll be ready for whoever they face. Inconsistent or not, Clare are very good, and have the confidence from last year to use as a foundation. The Munster Hurling Championship is impossible to call, but Clare are certainly one of the front runners.
Manager: Colm Collins
The Clare footballers had a very impressive league that saw them lose out narrowly to Tipperary in the Division 4 Final in Croke Park. It commenced with a seven-point victory over Waterford and Ennis will provide the backdrop for the clash of these two sides in the Munster Championship Quarter-Final in June.
Five victories from seven is a great return in any tier, so you would expect them to come out on top against the Déise men, but nothing can be taken for granted. One key aspect will be the availability of dual players, Padraig and Sean Collins. Up front, the experienced David Tubridy had a fine league campaign leading the way with 1-37. Colm Collins will be hoping Clare can replicate their league form to avenge their defeat to Waterford in 2010. Provided they overcome this first hurdle, they will go on the face Kerry at home.
The step up from Division 4 to Division 1 football is huge, but Clare have shown they can mix it with the best in the past. The more Championship games the better for Clare moving forward and they are a side not many would fancy should they go the qualifier route.
John Ivory, Pundit Arena.