Eoin Brennan previews Clare’s National Camogie League Division 1 Round 3 clash away to Limerick in TUS Gaelic Grounds this afternoon
ULTIMATELY, John Carmody and Conor Dolan’s aim is to bridge the gap to the big three of Galway, Cork and Kilkenny.
However, Clare’s real litmus test of where they currently lie comes this Saturday when facing neighbours Limerick in their own home patch.
Moral victories with a young side against Cork and Kilkenny were decent indicators of developmental improvement but it’s how Clare fare against the best of the rest such as Limerick, Dublin, Waterford and Tipperary that will be seen as the essential battleground.
Being a derby should be motivation enough but add in last year’s humbling reverses to their Shannonside neighbours that first put Clare into a Division 1 relegation play-off with Dublin before Limerick also subsequently knocked the same opponents out of the Munster Championship and it’s essentially must-win for the Banner.
Being effectively a relegation semi-final is also an additional carrot as with Cork and Kilkenny facing off for a National League Final place, it’s arguably just as significant a play-off in the TUS Gaelic Grounds.
Limerick, following an encouraging first season under Pat Ryan, are now being managed by John Lillis, one of Ryan’s selectors.
However, with Lillis being the county’s sixth different manager in only five seasons cannot be healthy in terms of continuity of message or tactics for the players.
On paper, they still possess a strong squad but confidence must be at a low ebb following a 26-point pummelling at the hands of Cork last time out.
Consequently, the door is ajar for Clare to capitalise as a victory would not only consolidate their top tier league status but would also be a validating boost of belief for the new-look set-up ahead of the Munster Championship in seven week’s time when facing the winners of Limerick and Tipperary at the penultimate stage.