THE Munster Minor football Championship has been a happy hunting ground for Clare in recent years with the county reaching three of the last four finals, writes Ivan Smyth.
They will be hoping to progress through to the provincial showpiece event once more when they come up against Limerick in the Munster Minor football Championship semi final this Friday in Cusack Park (throw in 7pm).
Manager Dermot Coughlan believes the consistency that Clare have shown in this competition is down to the hard work and structures that have been put in place at underage level.
“You need people who are willing to work hard. We have to prep teams right. If you look at any group they are training about three nights a week at least. They need Strength and Conditioning and all the other stuff that goes in to playing at a county level. I have to say the county board have looked after the players well. If the set up is right then the players will buy into it so I think that’s what has happened in the past few years.”
“You need to have the right set ups and the right application from players, management and everyone involved in any way with the team. You need to have the right systems in place for the players from U13, U14 level up and then carry that on. I’ve been 13 years involved with Clare teams. This is my third year with the minors and I’ve seen the work that goes in from everyone.”
The Kilmurry/Ibrickane man believes his side face a tough challenge when Limerick travel up to Ennis on Friday evening.
“They are an impressive side. They won the U15 (Dermot Earley) tournament a couple of years ago and they beat a fancied Tipp team last time out. We know we are in for a tough battle and all our focus is this Friday’s game.”
One of the recurring themes of the inter county season thus far is the importance of momentum. This is something that Limerick may possess as they have played and won a game so far in this years’ competition, having beaten Tipperary in the provincial quarter finals. This is Clare’s first outing and Coughlan knows that his side cannot afford a slow start.
“They have an advantage having that game under their belts. We’ve been training hard. The sessions have been geared towards getting a good start. Teams are now targeting the first water break and hoping to have themselves in a good position at that break so they can push on. Younger teams can hold on to the momentum well and it can be very hard when you are the team that’s behind.”
Coughlan describes this year’s panel as a “new group.” He admits that it will be likely that there will be 12 new starters from the team that reached last year’s Munster final.
Odhran Cunningham, Dylan O’Brien and Craig Riordan are the survivors from last year’s campaign with Kilrush’s O’Brien captaining this year’s side. Sean Rynne is the vice captain with the Ennistymon man also featuring in Terence Chaplin’s minor hurling panel before their Championship exit.
Michael Nash (ACL) and Darragh Burns (illness) are the only two absentees for Clare heading in to the Limerick game.
The Kilmurry/Ibrickane man admits the pandemic and the third lockdown brought fresh challenges for the management and players.
“It has been tough. In 2019 we could watch these guys playing club football. This year we had no club to base it off. We had 90 players come in for trials and they were coming in cold. They had no club or no schools football. It’s tough to gauge players form. We are at a big disadvantage compared to Kerry and Cork as they have a lot more to pick from. We have a smaller pool of players.”
Coughlan is happy with his side’s preparations heading in to this winner takes all encounter.
“There was very little club football for them so when they got out on the pitch it was a release for them. Their attitude has been 110%.”
Panel: Cian Corry (Killimer), Aaron Kelly (Wolfe Tones), James Cullinan (Ennistymon), Brian McNamara (Ennistymon), Josh Moloney (Kilmurry/Ibrickane), Diarmuid Comber (Kilmurry/Ibrickane), Odhran Cunningham (Killimer), Dylan O’Brien (Captain) (Kilrush), Conor Fennell (Kilrush), Oisín Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Sean McMahon (Banner), Conor Meaney (Lissycasey), James Doherty (Clarecastle), Craig Riordan (Wolfe Tones), Sean Rynne (Vice Captain) (Ennistymon), Cian Howard (Eire Óg), Gary Donnellan (Cooraclare), Muffana Flynn (Banner), Cillian Gavin (Clondegad), Eanna Rouine (Ennistymon), Evan Power (Kilrush), Sean McMahon (St. Joesphs Miltown), Lorcan Doolin (Ballyvaughan), Sean Perill (Eire Óg).
Extended panel: Tomás Sexton (Kilmurry Ibricakane), Ben McDonagh (Doorabarefield), Michael Nash (Doorabarefield), Darragh Burns (Doonbeg), Paul Frawley (St Joseph’s Miltown), Shane Culligan (Lissycasey).
Management Team: Manager: Dermot Coughlan, Selectors: Sean Haugh, TJ Carey, Dermot Gavin, Stats: Barry McGroary and Paul Mahoney, Goalkeeping coach: Peter O’Dwyer, Strength and Conditioning: Martin Davis, Physio: Aidan Slattery, Video Analysis: Dermot Mahoney.