The first competitive game of the 2019 campaign for the Clare senior footballers saw youth given it’s fling with great reward for Colm Collins and his management team.
Jayme O’Sullivan, Dermot Coughlan and Dale Masterson were all impressive in what were their first competitive starts, while Gearoid Cahill, Danny Griffin and Niall Ellis were introduced for their maiden competitive action and looked at home in an inter-county setting.
While the performance must be viewed in the context of what was a very poor Waterford side, it is worth noting that Clare notched up 1-17 which is no bad return. Mixed into that is the fact that the scoring burden was shared among 12 different players, with 1-13 of that tally coming from play.
One of the major talking points in the lead up to this clash was how both sides would cope with the new hand-pass rule, but in truth, from a Clare perspective, it made very little difference. They were punished twice for a fourth consecutive hand-pass, but both occasions came when a man was under pressure from a plethora of Waterford defenders as opposed to doing it out of habit.
Collins was pleased with the win and is looking forward to another competitive game before the National League campaign gets underway.
“Happy with the game overall, we were probably a little more clinical in front of goal than they were. Around the pitch, they did just as well as we did and in some areas they actually did a little better. The important thing is that we got the result and have another competitive game to look forward to next weekend” he said.
That game will be the McGrath Cup Final against Cork, with these sides meeting in the decider for the second year running. 12 months ago, it was a game that went all the way to extra-time before the Rebels came through by a single point.
Collins says while there were a lot of positives to take from the win over Waterford, he knows there are plenty of areas to work on ahead of the final.
“1-17 was a good score to put up but we could have been even a little bit more clinical. I was disappointed with some of the options we took in front of goals but overall we did some really good stuff. The young lads did really well and looked like they belonged where they were so that was pleasing to see. It is very hard over the course of a season to keep everyone healthy so it is great to lads that are coming on and pushing for places on the starting 15. Plenty of them put up their hand today so that was great” said Collins.
Clare’s National Football League campaign gets underway against Donegal in Cusack Park on Sunday January 27th and Collins is glad to have another quality game to look forward to ahead of that tie.
He said: “All last week there were enquiries about challenge games and we couldn’t really commit to any so I’d say those opportunities would have dried up. It would have been hard to get them now at short notice so having the game next weekend is a real bonus”.
It’s expected there will be changes to the starting 15 for Saturday’s final clash with the Rebels, with David Tubridy, Keelan Sexton, Jamie Malone, Pierce Lillis and Gordon Kelly among those who didn’t feature in Dungarvan.
Cork were comfortable winners over Limerick in the other semi final tie, notching up three goals in the process. It is an area Clare will have to improve on from Sunday’s win over Waterford. There were a couple of occasions where there were moments of uncertainty in the Clare full-back line in particular, and the defence will be disappointed to have conceded a late goal. If the Banner can keep a clean sheet against Cork on Saturday, you would back them to capture a 13th McGrath Cup title and a first since 2008.