The Leitrim footballers will hardly come to Ennis this weekend bursting with confidence.
Their only league win to date was away to Kilkenny, while they lost at home to Waterford and fell to Wicklow by seven points. But Clare are not yet in “unstoppable juggernaut” territory yet either. However, they have dealt capably with their two opponents up to this point. Beating Wicklow at home in round one was a huge boost. Defeat there would have left Clare as bereft of confidence and hope as ever.
Trailing by seven points early in the second half, they fought back admirably to secure an impressive win.
A Clare intermediate club football team would beat Kilkenny so, apart from getting the points, Clare’s game in Nowlan Park was virtually meaningless.
Strengthened by the return of Michael O’Shea and the addition of Barry Toner, Clare should be in good shape for Sunday’s fixture.
Gordon Kelly will hopefully be available following a shoulder injury, while Barry Duggan has been settling in nicely at full-back in both games.
It will be interesting to see if Mark Tubridy continues at centre back or is moved further up field, while Ger Quinlan and Laurence Healy will probably continue in the middle of the field.
David Tubridy has been playing good football in the league, while when located beside David Russell in the full-forward line, Gearóid Lynch has looked the part at corner-forward.
James Glancy and Declan Gilhooly are amongst Leitrim’s most dangerous forwards, while Mickey Moran’s team have lost some of last years panel to retirement and emigration.
A win this weekend will further fuel Clare’s drive to leave Division 4 behind them. They should be well able to stave off Leitrim before heading for Ruislip and the London game on Sunday week.
This Sunday’s game will throw in at 2.30pm in Cusack Park.
McDermott sees fire in panel
A two-point win over Laois in a challenge game last Thursday suggested to Clare manager Micheál McDermott that his team are keen to win every game, be it a challenge, league or championship.
It’s a winning mentality that has driven Kilmurry Ibrickane to Croke Park and it is one that McDermott hopes will engulf the county team.
“We used 24 players and the 24 players that took the field wanted to win the match. The performance just wasn’t good enough for them. They drove home to try and win the match and fought hard to win it. That was the most pleasing point and, hopefully, it will stand us in good stead going into the Leitrim match,” the Clare manager said.
McDermott concurs with the suggestion that this weekend’s league match, which is Clare’s third game, is a must-win if the county is to launch a real effort to emerge from Division 4.
“I said the Wicklow match at home here was like an All-Ireland final to us. The next match is equally as important and that’s the way we have to treat it. Hopefully the Clare support will be out there shouting us on and we’ll see, maybe things could be different for this team this year,” he added.
Gordon Kelly injured his shoulder against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park but he played Cusack Cup football for Miltown last Saturday.
“He should be okay. I know Graham (Kelly) had a stomach bug at the weekend but he’s over that now as well. Gearóid Lynch is probably our only doubt. He didn’t play for Kilkee in the Cusack Cup. He hurt his calf muscle the week before and hasn’t trained for the last ten days. Barry Toners is the only new addition to the panel but Michael O’Shea is back from injury as well and he played well against Laois. So he’ll be a good addition,” McDermott explained.
“Barry showed up well in the Laois match. He is an experienced player. He brings the Ulster style of football to our panel and it’s the style of football that I’ve always admired,” the Cavan man added.