Having taken 30 years to contest their previous two championship appearances in GAA Headquarters, the prospect of lining out on the hallowed turf for the second time in three weeks is now a glorious reality for Clare this Saturday.
Indeed, with both the footballers and hurlers lining out in Croke Park for the first time in the same season, it may be a nightmare for supporters’ pockets but the stuff of dreams when it comes to the development of both squads.
The thing is that despite being overrun by Derry in the second half of their rare National League clash in late February, Clare won’t fear taking on the Ulster champions.
All because Derry, despite the jolt in confidence of a first provincial crown in 24 years, are equally as unaccustomed to the environs of Jones’ Road on championship days.
After all, drift back three or four seasons and Derry were languishing in Division 4 and found it difficult to attract their Slaughtneil contingent.
They have been consistently improving though under Rory Gallagher who while clearly employing a strong defensive system, isn’t even a modicum as bleak as his previous duvet defence in Fermanagh.
Instead, Derry are the current kings of counter-attacking led by generals Brendan Rogers, Chrissy McKaigue, Conor Glass and Gareth McKinless.
However, while that disciplined style is made for guerrilla warfare against superpowers such as Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal, it doesn’t necessarily adapt easily for taking on a Banner side that will hoping have a tactical ace up their sleeve as firm underdogs heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Confidence certainly won’t be as issue for Clare who, having already experienced a championship double header in Croke Park, have another free shot on Saturday as all the pressure and expectations will be placed on Derry’s shoulders for the first time in 2022.
They faltered in similar circumstances in Division 2 of the league so expect Colm Collins and Co. to try and rattle the Oak Leaf County early on in the hope of potentially reaching a first semi-final in 30 years.
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final (Extra-time if Necessary)
Derry v Clare at Croke Park Dublin, Saturday 3.45pm (Martin McNally, Monaghan)