When the half-time whistle blows in Cusack Park on Sunday, it will mark the exact halfway point of Clare’s National Football League Division Two campaign.
Depending on how other results are going, it could also see them having made the jump from the bottom of the league standings into the top half of the table.
That might be a hypothetical situation but it sums up just how inconsistent and unpredictable the second tier division has been so far in 2020, and chances are that will hold true until the last whistle is blown in the final round of games.
Inconsistent and unpredictable are also two terms which could be used to sum up how Clare have been so far in this three game old campaign. In fact, you could argue that they have been that way for a number of years when it comes to the National League. Since gaining promotion to Division Two, Clare only managed back to back wins once, beating Cork and Louth in consecutive games in 2018.
It has been the faltering point in an otherwise positive story but it is a trend that Clare are going to have to buck if that graph is to continue rising. The new championship structures mean that the penalty for failing to maintain your place in the top half of the league now has serious repercussions, so points this Sunday are going to be vital.
The trend of results have been similar over the years, but so too have been the reasons for not picking up points that were there for the taking. The Colm Collins mantra is that possession is the name of the game, even going so far as to label kick-outs as ‘possession restarts’. That ethos has seen Clare develop a positive brand of football for the most part, but the problem arise when those values break down. It has been a constant theme of conversations with the manager after defeats that possession was wasted on too many occasions, shots that simply were not there as options were taken, and worst of all, balls dropping short into the waiting arms of the opposition goalkeeper. Losing the ball in contact when the simple option was to lay it off, and no one offering to be the hard runner to break the line have also been themes in defeat.
By their own admission, the second half showing last time out against Roscommon is a level that Clare simply cannot afford to drop to for the rest of the campaign. It is going to take a huge effort from the entire squad for the next four games in order to make sure that Clare will not drop out of the top half of the league standings, and put their championship future in real jeopardy. The flip side of that coin is that with three of the next four games coming at home, there is a brilliant chance to do just that. It all starts this Sunday when Laois come to Cusack Park and Clare will need a massive response. The O’Moore Men will also be looking for a response after becoming the first Division Two team of this season to lose at home when they were beaten by Cavan last weekend.
Clare just need to focus on getting the basics right. Cut out the pot-shots, give the man in possession an outlet, attack the line with pace and don’t carry into contact. If they can get those fundamentals right, then there should be enough to pick up the points and start to see the light at the end of the survival tunnel.