Sunday afternoon’s clash with Fermanagh in Cusack Park will not only mark the resumption of Clare’s National Football League campaign, but also the resumption of Eoin Cleary’s captaincy duties in Colm Collins’ squad.
The Miltown clubman was appointed captain last January, and his six point haul in Clare’s last league game was instrumental in securing a crucial away win against Cavan.
That was the last outing for the squad in a competitive setting, and Cleary admits everyone is now focused on making the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.
“It is great to have this to look forward to, particularly with the club season finished. Everyone is in limbo and it is unprecedented times so people are just mad to get out to play a bit of sport and meet up with friends. We are privileged to have this now and we are looking forward to playing Fermanagh this weekend. We know what we need to do in our last two games in order to stay up so everyone in the camp is really focused at the moment. Training has gone really well, we have played a few challenge games and the pace of it all has been really good. There were arguments at the start of the year for the club to go first and we didn’t need to do any preseason stuff when we came back in then because everyone was fit so we could just focus on playing football. Everyone has hit the ground running and we are just looking forward now to getting going at the weekend” he noted.
The Limerick based Garda has been working on the frontline throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, while also managing his own health issues. Cleary, who has notched 0-15 over the course of Division Two to date, admits not having the home supporters in Cusack Park will be strange but is hopeful they can still produce the performances needed.
“Everyone is taking a risk really I suppose. Some lads here have older parents at home, and from my own point of view I am asthmatic and I am also a guard on the front line. We are lucky in the sense that it is out in the open air and we are social distancing most of the time. We are getting to play games and do what we love so we are very lucky. Some of the older generation are having it very tough at the moment so we will hopefully be able to bring some enjoyment to them over the next few weeks with the games being either on the radio or on television. It is disappointing that the fans can’t be there because there is always a great roar in the Clare crowd when a game is tight in the last few minutes and they have often pushed us on for an extra few points. They will be there in the back of our minds and we know they will be urging us on whether its on the radio or television. All we can do is do is try and do our best for them and hope we do them proud” he said.
Cleary’s predecessor as captain is among those who have returned to the squad for the remainder of the 2020 campaign with Gary Brennan, Jamie Malone and Podge Collins all linking up with the panel in recent weeks. He says having them back has made a huge difference to the intensity levels, and while some uncertainty surrounded the resumption of the campaign, he feels there is a wider benefit to having sport to look forward to
“They have added to it hugely and they have hit the ground running. The competition for places is fierce not only to get on the first 15 but to get on the matchday panel. That is why training has really stepped up a gear because these lads have brought it on again so it is really good to have them back.
There was uncertainty around the whole football season in general but lads were keeping fit and they came back in good shape. There is going to be that uncertainty about fixtures until the end of the year anyway but you just need to prepare as if there is a game on the following week and that is all you can do. It is great to have games this time of year and we looked like we might be approaching a lockdown scenario. We are privileged to get out and have these games to play. The GAA wants to press ahead with it and you understand that because it brings great enjoyment to people. We saw that particularly with the club season and especially for those who won anything because it gave a great lift to everyone in their parish so we are hoping to do something similar for the county over the coming weeks” he said.
When he is not training or lining out for Clare, the Miltown man will be on duty for An Garda Siochana with Operation Fanacht checkpoints in place as Covid-19 restrictions continue. He is hopeful that they will soon be a thing of the past but is urging the public to continue being vigilant in the fight against the virus.
“From my experience during the last lockdown, people were really good. It was only those making essential journeys to work and dropping off supplies for elderly relatives and that kind of thing. I think everyone is used to how things are now and it has become the way of life so hopefully in a year or so we will be looking back saying they were tough times but thankfully we got through them. Hopefully we will all get through it together if we all row in together on the effort” he concluded.