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One of only two home defeats in Brian Lohan's reign has come against Wexford.

Clare looking to bounce back against Wexford

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AS last weekend’s opening results reiterated, expectation is the root of all heartache, writes Eoin Brennan.

No matter what realistic picture you paint of injuries, absentees or retirements, supporters are invariably diseased with hope and wild optimism at the start of every season thus providing a painful landing when crashing back down to earth.

Clare and Wexford can attest to that in recent weeks as both reached their provincial warm-up finals, only to be handed sizeable defeats by Limerick and Dublin. And yet expectations were again thrown out the window following the first round of the National League.

Having been humbled by 16 points in the Walsh Cup Final, Wexford supporters still feared the worst when Limerick rolled into town last Sunday. However, Darragh Egan’s reign began in earnest that day as the Wexicans were always going to be a different animal at home as they went toe-to-toe with the back-to-back All-Ireland champions to provide the perfect jolt.

It should have been a similar lowering of expectations for Clare who have been decimated by injuries to key players and did well to actually fulfil a 26 man panel that included 2018 All Star John Conlon, only one full training session back in the fold.

And yet walking out of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Banner supporters were crestfallen by the result. In fact, considering the inexplicable 1-10 unanswered lapse before half-time, the 2-30 to 2-21 result was actually a solace.

No, this campaign is more about finding players or at least finding out about players in a positive or indeed negative sense before the Munster round-robin Championship.

Young players like Patrick Crotty and Shane Meehan (you’d think Mark Rodgers was a veteran) pushed themselves up the pecking order while others moved in the opposite direction but these are exactly the kind of tests Clare crave to be able to hone their squad for April.

Results will vary and more familiar names will return in the coming weeks but knee-jerk reactions in either direction cannot be realistically entertained until after the provincial series.

Clare’s home record in Cusack Park has been healthy under Brian Lohan, with five victories from seven competitive outings since 2020 and outside of the Offaly game, this is definitely one that Clare would have been targeting as eminently winnable.

Coincidentally, along with the recent Munster Hurling Cup Final defeat to Limerick, last year’s first home tie in the National League against Wexford was the only other defeat in Ennis, a result that one couldn’t see coming for the majority but also hit home about expectations.

Off the back of a first round reverse to Antrim in Belfast, Clare were eager to make amends but their control and discipline slipped down the final straight and Wexford traveled home with the points.

It was their only win over Clare though as three successive championship exits have come at the hands of the Banner, the last two under Lohan and Co. who can also boast a rare victory in Wexford Park in the 2020 National League, also with 14 men.

The Leinster side will be gunning to build on taking down hurling’s current kingpins but Clare will have a point to prove too and being the first unrestricted competitive tie in Cusack Park since March 2020, the Banner roar will inevitably play its part.

The bottom line is over the next five weeks though is to expect the unexpected.

Allianz Hurling League
Division 1 Round 2
Clare v Wexford at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 1.45pm
(Colm Lyons, Cork)

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