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A delighted Brian Lohan congratulates his players following their win over Waterford at Cusack Park. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Banner’s final push for Premier achievement

Having witnessed the strong hopes of the minors and Under 20’s end in heartbreaking circumstances over the past week, Clare’s Munster hopes revert once more to Brian Lohan’s flagship side that are bidding to guarantee their place in a third successive Munster Senior Final when traveling to Thurles to take on hosts Tipperary this Sunday (4pm).
Not since Brian Lohan was a player himself have the county contested three provincials deciders in a row but having secured back-to-back championship victories over Cork and Waterford, that is now a reality if Clare can work the oracle once more on Sunday.
Indeed, such are the myriad of permutations and ramifications for Sunday’s final round ties between Tipperary and Clare and Limerick versus Waterford that it’s best to concentrate on the controllable, namely the fact that their Munster Final fate is very much in their own hands as a win or draw on Sunday guarantees their place once more.
“It’s the Munster championship, it’s going down to the last weekend and we are in there and we will see how we get on,” beamed the Clare manager after Sunday’s thrilling finale against Waterford that saw Mark Rodgers’ cooly loft over a last gasp ’65 to prevail by the minimum.
“It was great to get the result. I’m delighted with the resilience of the group and how they played. We did some very good things and also some poor things and let them [Waterford] back into the game but overall we’re very happy with how they responded after a lot of set-backs in that second-half.”
It was certainly a much rosier outlook from their last outing in Cusack Park a month previously when despite soaring nine clear by the three-quarters mark, Lohan’s side lost their way and were unceremoniously punished by five-in-a-row Munster champions Limerick on the opening weekend.
For the second successive year, a difficult home reverse in the first round left Clare with no room for any further error.
“Losing to Limerick put us under pressure,” admitted Lohan on Sunday. “Having tuned out for a period in that game, we have responded well and our players have shown great resilience to get four points on the board.”
Four points could actually be enough to cement Clare’s berth in the Munster decider on Sunday, June 9, if Limerick overcome Waterford on home soil but the unpredictability of the provincial series means that Clare cannot afford to take anything for granted.
What is in the Banner’s favour is their recent record in Thurles as having never beaten Tipperary in Semple Stadium before, they now have chalked up two successive Munster Championship victories in the ‘Field of Legends’ and are aiming to create further history with a third this Sunday.
A dramatic smash-and-grab 1-23 to 1-21 victory led by a 15-point haul from Peter Duggan opened a new chapter in Clare’s history in Thurles in June 2018 as that victory knocked the home side out of the championship while being the catalyst for Clare to contest their second Munster Final in a row on their way to getting within touching distance of an All-Ireland Final against Limerick.
Two years ago, a more emphatic 3-21 to 2-16 win courtesy of 1-7 from Tony Kelly and 1-2 each through Duggan and Ian Galvin again ended the Premier County’s hopes and ushered Brian Lohan’s Clare to a first Munster Final.
Good omens for a return visit this Sunday, with the 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland winner hoping to have almost a full hand to choose from after welcoming back Tony Kelly on Sunday.
“It’s really good to have him back and we are delighted to get him back on the field. His contribution today is what we expect from Tony,” referring to Kelly’s goal midway through the second period.
With Ryan Taylor yet to return from an ACL injury suffered in last year’s All-Ireland Semi-Final against Kilkenny and David McInerney also absent last Sunday, Clare have had to delve into their pack for this year’s Munster Championship round robin series.
“David was a massive loss. He went off the field a couple of minutes from he end of the Cork game due to injury. He tried to get back for today but didn’t make it so hopefully he can make in back in time for next week.”
With a hat-trick of Munster Finals, not seen in 25 years, within their grasp, Clare unquestionably won’t be leaving anything to chance this Sunday.
“We are in a good position going to Thurles. After a disappointing start, we now have fought our way back into contention so we’ll take it on, try to put our best foot forward and see how it goes next Sunday.”

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