Clare selector Enda Coughlan has been around football long enough to recognise when a battle is on the horizon, and the Kilmurry Ibrickane man admits this weekend’s tie with Meath in Cusack Park is a massive game in the context of their National League campaign.
With just two games left to go, Clare face a relegation scrap if they’re to extend their stay in the second tier to fourth season having moved up as Division Three champions in 2016.
The Shannon-based Garda feels a huge seven day period lies ahead.
“The way it’s panning out, this is a massive game now for us, along with the last round against Tipperary. We probably need to pick up a couple of points in both of those games so hopefully we can do the business this weekend first. The last two games have been disappointing in that we haven’t come away with any points on the board. We went up to both places, Newbridge and Enniskillen, with high expectations and it just didn’t happen for us for whatever reason either of the two days. We have done a good bit of work now over the last two weeks so hopefully that will translate itself into a performance on Saturday” he said.
Clare will no doubt look back on some key opportunities in games where a bit more composure in front of goal could have seen results overturned, and Coughlan accepts it’s something they need to sharpen up on ahead of the visit of the Royals.
He said: “We need to get our shooting efficiency up, that’s been probably the major thing in the last two games. We are having plenty shots but not taking the right options at times and then we are not getting on the scoreboard with them. That’s ultimately why we have lost the last two games I think. We started off decent enough but just in the last two games we haven’t got the results. We played well in patches in both games and we would be happy enough with that but at the end of the day, it’s all about results and we haven’t got them. We have put ourselves in this position now and it’s up to us to get out of it in these last two games”.
Meath come to Cusack Park on Saturday looking to make it a third straight win over Clare in Division Two meetings, while you have to go all the way back to 1979 to find the last time the Banner toppled the Leinster men. Coughlan says they can’t allow themselves to get drawn into stats like that ahead of this weekend’s showdown.
“They’ve beaten us the last two years and fairly comprehensively so if you want to call that our bogey team, maybe they just seem in recent times to have the measure of us, but I wouldn’t read too much into it in terms of they being our bogey team because it’s not like we have been meeting them regularly. I wouldn’t say Cork for example would consider us their bogey team just because we have beaten them the last few times we have met. It’s all about performing on the day and making sure we are right to get the result, I wouldn’t be focusing on anything else other than that. They are flying high, they’re top of the league and going well, but we have them in Cusack Park and we have tried to do well at home over the last few years and I think we have so hopefully that will continue on Saturday” he noted.
This is Clare’s first home game since a comprehensive win over Cork on February 10, and is the Banner’s third and final home fixture of the campaign before they head to Semple Stadium for the final round against Tipperary. Coughlan admits picking points in your own back yard is vital.
“You simply have to win your home games. We lost the first one to Donegal which was disappointing because we targeted our home games and this is the last one now. We are hoping to pick up the points and if we make it two wins from three, it will put us in a great position ahead of the Tipperary game. The players are excellent and I couldn’t say a bad word about them. For the last few years, they have been a credit to Clare football and they’re the ones that drive it in fairness to them. Colm is the one that is over it all but it is really player driven. We have some great leaders in that dressing room and great players and I don’t expect anything less from them only to put the performances we need over the next two weeks” he concluded.