Clare v Dublin St Brendan’s Park Birr, Saturday 5pm
(John Dermody, Westmeath)
Following contrasting derby performances against Galway and Limerick, Clare’s focus must now be solely results-based as they look to consolidate their Division 1 status. On the brink of a Division 1 Final appearance 12 months previously, their current flirtation with relegation is an unwanted position that could yet be a blessing in disguise for Clare if they can meet the challenge head on and make a return to winning ways.
There is the safety net of another chance for the loser against Waterford but it still should be seen as winner-takes-all for Ger O’Connell’s side who will view Dublin as their best chance of alleviating any demotion danger.
After all, Clare easily brushed aside the challenge of Dublin in their last competitive victory by 1-18 to 1-07 back in October for a place in the All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Finals, their first since 2014.
However, with a new management team under Adrian O’Sullivan, the former coach of the Éire Óg hurlers, expect Dublin to come out with all guns blazing as equally they will be eying up the Banner in a bid to stay alive in Division 1.
With the All-Ireland Senior Championship the overarching focus, this could still be a make-or-break game for Clare as a failure to beat Dublin would be seen as a major regression in their recent development path.
Win or lose, Clare will be in action again the following weekend but their mindset will be completely different. Victory on Saturday would tee them up perfectly for a Munster Championship revenge mission against Limerick whereas a reverse to the Dubs would leave the Banner struggling to pick up the pieces for that final relegation showdown with Waterford.
Necessity alone should dictate a first Clare victory of 2021.
by Eoin Brennan