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Cillian Brennan keeping tabs on Cork's Brian Hurley in the league this year. Photograph by John Kelly

Brennan keeping up the family honour with Clare footballers

With Championship season now in full swing, players from across the land are desperately trying to find that extra one per cent that can be the difference between victory and defeat.

As more counties encounter the heat of Championship battle, the focus needed to compete and ensure a player is ready for peak performance has never been more important.

With Cillian Brennan trying to recover from a hamstring injury sustained in his side’s league defeat to Meath, he has had enough to keep him occupied.

However, throw in the fact that he is in the final stages of completing his PhD at Mary Immaculate College and it is easy to see why when initially questioned about his studies, Brennan admits the past few weeks have been hectic and the next few will be even more so.

With his research exploring the experiences of PE specialism graduates as PE teachers and leaders in Irish primary schools, Brennan is passionate about the importance of PE provision in primary level education.

“It is interesting to explore the idea of primary PE. There are a lot of voices and good efforts from teachers out there.

“It’s important to focus on the needs of the children and equip them with the necessary skills. It is about finding something that works for the children and something they enjoy doing.”

“I do have to take off my GAA hat when doing the research as some children may enjoy GAA while others may not.

“It’s vital to focus on the children and what suits their interests and needs. I want to help in the safeguarding and promoting the education and well-being of young people.”

“We hope people can develop confidence in their own voice as PE instructors. The coaches do brilliant work. It’s about finding a combined approach by helping both teachers and coaches work together in the best interests of the children.”

The Brennan name carries considerable weight in Clare GAA. With Cillian witnessing his brothers Gary and Shane, represent their county with distinction, the 25-year-old certainly comes from a family steeped in tradition.

“Any time you put on the Clare jersey it’s a huge honour. I got a brilliant education at a young age. My father was well involved in GAA while I watched Gary and Shane playing in Division Four and Three games. I travelled all over the country to watch them so it is great to now be inside the white lines myself.”

While Gary enjoyed a stellar career, becoming one of Clare’s all time great players, Shane was not so fortunate. His talent and willingness to work for the cause was unquestioned.

However, injuries, specifically a damaged ligament in his foot suffered during a Munster semi final defeat to Kerry in 2017, derailed his inter county ambitions.

Does seeing this side of the game make him appreciate playing for Clare even more?

“Absolutely. I’ve seen the work that Gary and Shane have put in. The level of commitment needed is huge. Things can change and you can be unfortunate with injuries.

“I’ve had a couple of injuries but I’m aware that I’ve been lucky. I appreciate the chance to put on the jersey every time.”

Brennan’s Clare career seems to be intertwined with this Saturday’s opponents. He joined the senior set-up after Clare’s Division Three league triumph over Kildare in 2016.

Meanwhile, in that same league campaign Limerick failed to win a game as they were relegated to Division Four, with their resurgence in recent years being one of the underrated GAA stories.

With Colm Collins tending to bring players in to the set-up to first experience the commitment and increased physicality at this level, the qualified primary school teacher bided his time and made his inter county Championship debut against Limerick in 2018 at full back.

Since then he hasn’t looked back while this spring he was one of Clare’s most consistent performers. The praise for his performances doesn’t sit easy with the full back as he quickly deflects attention to newcomers Manus Doherty and Cillian Rouine who slotted in either side of him.

“It’s an extremely competitive squad. No matter what forwards you are against you are always learning. I wasn’t naturally a full back but Colm (Collins) obviously saw something and I got my chance there.”

“Manus and Cillian have done brilliantly. There is a good unit of us working defensively. The forwards are leading it and then we try our best to do our bit.”

With the age profile of squads continuing to decrease due to the workload and toll on a player’s body, a player who has been a consistent starter since 2018 can be regarded as an experienced voice in the dressing room.

However, Brennan doesn’t view himself in that role although he does jokingly admit that a few of the newcomers to the panel initially thought he was older than 25 years of age.

“There are plenty of players around the team who can all share and voice their opinions. There is a good balance across the team.

“A few of the younger lads thought I was a bit older than I am but I wouldn’t think of myself in that way.”

The Ballyea hurler played alongside Limerick footballer Cillian Fahy when the pair helped Mary Immaculate College win the Trench Cup in 2018.

Fahy captained the side to glory as Brennan and Clare prepare to lock horns with a high flying Limerick outfit.

“He (Fahy) is a very impressive footballer. He has the skills and athleticism to trouble any team. Limerick have a range of talent in their set-up. We will have our homework done as they are a very impressive outfit.”

“The way they got promoted should give them a lot of confidence as they managed their games very well. They’ve been very impressive and were one of the biggest stories from the league.

“They have a good balance between their running and kicking game. There’s very little between the two teams so we have to be fully tuned in and ready.”

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