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Clare coach Brian Carson at Cusack Park. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare coach Carson back to complete unfinished business

Clare’s premature 2020 Munster Senior Championship Quarter-Final exit to Tipperary was understandably a bitter pill to swallow.

With Kerry and Cork set to face each other at the semi-final stage in the other side of the draw, there was a major opportunity for the Banner to contest a first provincial senior decider since 2012, only to flooringly fall at the first hurdle.

In the aftermath of that fragmented Covid-19 season, Brian Carson opted to step aside after two years as head coach but has returned this year with renewed optimism of Clare’s potential.

“It’s good to be back. I felt that I had a little bit of unfinished business as I was disappointed with the way it finished up at the end of 2020. I even thought at that stage that if I could come back to Clare at some point I would so I was glad when Colm [Collins] approached me and am delighted to come back.

“It’s a compliment to the environment and the culture of the group that Colm, the backroom team and the panel themselves have set up that I’d be willing to go back into that environment so that speaks well of the entirety of the group.

“I also came back because I had a certain level of optimism towards this group. I think there’s a good level of talent in Clare to work with, it would be hard work going out each week if there wasn’t.

“There’s sufficient talent there to work with and I think we’ve unearthed a little bit more talent again in the pre-season.

“So I really think that the lads are taking on board what we’re saying and I’m surprised almost by the trajectory of how quick they’ve taken some things on board so again that would also feed into the optimism long into the year.”

Having worked with some of the panel before over a two year period, one of the main ingredients in Carson’s return was to freshen up the backroom team around him.

“Obviously Colm has put some great things in place in terms of the support, the nutrition, a statistical support perspective and selectors and so on. However, I felt that I couldn’t come back in and just do the same again, that we needed a couple of fresh faces around the place.

“Colm has done that successfully throughout his tenure so it’s exciting to be working with Joe Hayes, Mark Doran and Micheál Cahill from an S&C perspective.

“So while there’s a lot of familiarity there from the last time I was involved, those new faces on the management also made it relatively new. While the backroom team will set the environment, it’s the players that win matches so there are plenty of new panelists too since my last involvement which also brings new ideas and enthusiasm.

“That was important for me as a lot of the panel had heard a lot from me over two years so I needed to be coming back with something new.”

A senior lecturer in Exercise Physiology in UL, Carson was previously manager himself of the UL Sigerson squad and between that and his two year inter-county experience with Clare, the Dublin native feels that he has gained considerable experience and perspective for his second stint with the Banner.

“Last time around was my first time as a head coach of an inter-county team so you come with ideas and plans and some of them work out and others don’t. What I’d like to think is that I’ve learned a lot from that two year experience.

“I’ve since had two years to go away and reflect on what worked and what needed tweaking and improvement and we’ve done that. I think even my approach to how we set up the training session and our analysis work too has improved. How we stage things out to the players is different, the communication lines are open with the players and we bring them into what our strategy is, the way we’re trying to play and where we’re coming from in terms of the gameplan.

“Essentially we’re presenting them with the vision and the rationale behind it in trying to bring that buy-in into it rather than just coming out and saying this is the way we’re going to play, this is what you’re going to do.

“So it’s definitely more collaborative this time around and hopefully that will help us develop.

“After all, the players are giving up so much of their life for this thing and they are the ones that are going to win the match. I’m not going to kick any points, make any tackles or block a shot, they are the ones that are going to do that and implement the gameplan.

“So if they are brought into it and made to understand the rationale behind it, I feel anyway that it helps in their feedback week to week. They then understand what went well, what didn’t go as well as we would have liked and how we can adapt to improve it.

“So I definitely think that that buy-in is there and they’re a very good group of players to work with. The more senior guys are very, very clued in and the younger lads are eager to learn and want to know their numbers and stats and what they can improve on every week so it has been hugely encouraging so far.”

After a winter of preparation and planning, the acid test for Clare comes over the next nine weeks in which they seven National League matches to contend with in their seventh season in Division 2

“Division 2 is relentless, there’s no let-up. Every week seems like a vital or crucial game and no more so than the start. We’ve Louth at home and Meath away so there’s no respite from week to week.

“I am looking forward to meeting my native county next month in Croke Park, that was a nice little bonus when coming back. We’ve also Kildare, Cork, Limerick and Derry, plenty of rivalries from over the years as well as some new challenges so I think the biggest testament to the division is that every year coming into the final round, there is never a dead rubber in Division 2.

“So everybody will be fighting for something every week and the context changes every week. That’s part of the attraction, there’s a huge challenge there, it’s a pressured environment but shur that’s what you want, that’s why we’re all in it, is to challenge ourselves.”

About Eoin Brennan

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