As the countdown to the first game of the new Munster championship intensifies, so too does the anticipation for the Clare minor hurlers.
Fergal Lynch’s crew will be in action in the curtain raiser on Sunday afternoon as they take on the home side in the first of this year’s round-robin series. With a large home crowd expected in the Waterford city venue, it will be a unique experience for almost the entirety of this squad as they bid to get a huge day for Clare hurling off to a positive start.
2013 All-Ireland winner Lynch admits it is a date that has come around quickly.
“Time really has flown since we first met back in October. We have a lot of work done between training sessions and challenge games and we have learned a lot about our players and our management team. It has been very enjoyable so far but the ultimate test will come now on Sunday and we really want a result down in Walsh Park. We feel that the lads are in a good spot both mentally and psychically for the game. We do have a few knocks and will be missing a few lads on the day due to injuries but you just have to get on with it and that is why you build up a panel of players to pick from” said the Clooney/Quin man.
The opening day of 2018 also saw the Clare minors on the road as they took on Cork and another tough away is first up this time around. Lynch feels the logistics involved will provide a challenge for his side.
He said: “We are really going into what will be an absolute cauldron down there and it will be a really early start for our lads. We will be leaving at 6.30am to be down in Walsh Park on time and that is quite early for young lads of 16 and 17 years of age. We have done a few trails runs of it but you never know until the day how lads will react to starting out that early and the long journey then on the bus and all that goes with it. It is the first real big game they will have played in front of a large crowd so it will certainly be a huge learning curve for them, and something they will have to learn quickly from. We considered going down the night before but we felt that the lads are used to sleeping in their own beds the night before games and we didn’t want to upset their routines because it is something that would be totally new to them. Having them in their own comfortable environment is important we feel and not having too much change because that would bring even more questions as to how they would deal with it”.
With the minor schedule mirroring the senior once more for 2019, it means that Clare will have a three week break after Sunday’s game before facing into three consecutive weekends on the trot to finish out the campaign. While a tough task awaits, Lynch is hopeful that it can be a positive trip to the south-east on both counts.
“It would be fantastic if the minor and seniors can come away with a win each, but it is not the be all and end all either. We have two home games and one away to Limerick after that which are carrots too but it would be icing on the cake to get out with a result on the first day and kick it off in a positive manner. It can gather momentum from there and players will start to grow into themselves and with the confidence that brings, you just don’t know where it will take you then. In terms of the senior game, I still stand over what I have always said because I think Clare have a great chance down there. We are a great championship team and we have proven that over the years. We have been unlucky to lose out in Munster finals in the last while. I think the management have the lads prepared really well and they are in a good mental state too. A win in Waterford is an absolute must for the lads to progress on from what they did last year” he concluded.
2019 Clare Minor Hurling Panel: Captain: Cian Galvin (Clarecastle), Joint Vice-Captains: Tony Butler (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield) and Diarmuid Cahill (Corofin), Niall Walsh and Shane Meehan (Banner), Sean Wiley and Seanie Doyle (Bodyke), Cian Broderick and Conor Halpin (Clarecastle), Colm O’Meara (Clonlara), Callum Beirne, Eoin Guilfoyle, Darragh Keogh and Donagh O’Sullivan (Clooney/Quin), Conor Leen, Cillian McGroary and Killian O’Connor (Corofin) Oisin O’Donnell (Crusheen), Jarlath Collins (Eire Óg), Oisin Clune and Adam Hogan (Feakle), Conner Hegarty and Marc O’Loughlin (Inagh/Kilnamona), Keith Smyth (Killanena), Sean Ronan (Kilmaley), Cormac Murphy (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Jack Kirwan (Parteen), Shane Punch (Ruan), Storm Devanney, Dylan Downes and Sean McNamara (Sixmilebridge), Andrew Conheady and Aaron Shanahan (Tulla).