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Clare's Eoin Cleary

Cleary Looking Forward To Championship Opener

2019 has already been something of a mixed bag for Eoin Cleary.

The St Joseph’s Miltown man missed out on the early part of the season having undergone surgery on a hand injury before Christmas. He made his return to action in Clare’s National League loss to Kildare, before going on to help the Banner retain their status in Division Two with victory over Tipperary on the final day.

As championship approaches, the Limerick based Garda is looking forward to what he hopes will be a successful few months ahead.

“Once the euphoria of Thurles died down, this game against Waterford is the only one we have been talking about. We have always been striving in Clare football to keep improving each time we go out on the field, and the next step for us is to make the Munster final. That journey starts on May 11 against Waterford in Cusack Park and we are looking forward to that. It was a mixed league for us really. After the first three games, we have three points in the bag and were shaping up nicely to maybe have a tilt at promotion. Unfortunately we lost the next three games and in reality they were games that we really could have won. We didn’t manage to do that and then we had to refocus for that massive game against Tipperary and to win a high pressure game like that was brilliant. The momentum was against us facing into the last ten minutes and it gave us a massive lift to come out of it in the way we did. I suppose overall it was a mixture of elation and disappointment but that win in Thurles in what was a real pressure cooker scenario will really stand to us for the season ahead.” he said.

It has also been a busy April for Cleary as he lined out in each of St Joseph’s club games as they moved within touching distance of the Cusack Cup knockout stages. He feels having that time with the club was important.

He said: “It’s great to give that time back to the clubs because the lads at home just want to see you back training and playing games. When you are with the county you don’t really get to do much for the club and there are lads training there trying to keep the ship afloat. We have four on the county panel at the moment so it is tough when numbers are not at training. I do think it is a great month to have so many games going on but then the lull for a few months is not ideal. I do think they will have to look at two different seasons for club and county because it is not fair to have all the games in April and then nothing for a few months again. I think it is a serious problem for the GAA because you have lads going off to America or maybe being lost to other sports because of it so I really think they need to look at it. County players can often be put under huge pressure to play games for the club when there are big games coming up in the county scene and it is not fair on club players having to wait so long for games. County players want to give everything to their club and county and at the moment they can’t really do that with the way things are. We are amateur players so between work and everything else, having two separate seasons is the only realistic way forward”.

Waterford make the trip to Cusack Park as they bid to build on the progress made under the now former manager Tom McGlinchey. He stepped down after last season, with Benji Whelan taking over the reins. Cleary knows they will be facing an opponent who will be waiting to punish any mistakes.

“They are going to be organised and well prepared. Benji has a great record at club level with the Nire and he had them well drilled. He got them to Munster finals so we know what he can do as a manager. I have no doubt he is looking forward to seeing what they can do against us, but we are looking forward to testing ourselves against them too. We know we will have to everything right on the day to win. If you start taking silly shots or not getting the ball into the right areas, you will get caught. Look at how Carlow caught Kildare last year when they were a Division Four team and Kildare were in Division One. You have to just focus on the challenge in front of you, and even though I know it is a cliché, it really is about just taking it one game at a time. Waterford will come up to Cusack Park with no real fear and we will have to be ready for that” said Cleary.

The two-time Clare senior football championship winner will be hoping to continue his strong run of form in recent times that has seen him build a reputation as one of the most elusive forwards in the game. He says he has really been enjoying his game over the last few seasons.

“I have been enjoying myself in recent times. I have something of a new lease of life out at center-forward having played most of my football in the inside line. I am loving it at the moment but I just need to find a bit of form now. I found after I came back from the injury that I was struggling for form a little bit and I was getting a bit frustrated with myself and my own performance because I wasn’t as useful to the team as I knew I could be. Thankfully the Tipperary game went well for me. I am just looking to keep that going now for the Munster championship and hopefully that will start now against Waterford” he concluded.

You can listen to the full interview with Eoin speaking to the Clare Champion’s Derrick Lynch below.

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