Clare manager Evan Talty wants his side to end their poor run of form in knockout football as they seek to stop a dangerous Longford outfit.
With Clare having not won a knockout Championship game since 2016, the Clare manager is keenly aware that his side simply must find a way to win this Sunday in Birr (throw in 2pm), something which has proved problematic in recent years.
Clare had failed to win an opening round Championship game since 2018 but rectified that statistic when defeating Down. They suffered a one point defeat to Louth, having already reached the knockout stages before a ball was kicked in Cusack Park two weeks ago.
Talty now has his sights set on ending Clare’s poor run of form in knockout Championship football.
“I’d be a fan of calling things as they are. We have experience. Our 20 year olds would have four years inter county behind them. They are young but mature. We should have beat Tipp and Meath a couple of years ago (at the quarter final stage). If we keep letting others have their day in the sun, when is it our turn?”
“Everyone says we are there or thereabouts. We have been nowhere near an All Ireland since 2016.
“We have put a huge emphasis on bringing a performance on the big day. We’ve had moral victories over the years but we all play to win at this level. We are not here for a three year development plan or a five year project, we are here to get a job done this year.”
The Kilmurry Ibrickane man states that Róisín Looney (shoulder) and Chloe Towey (achilles) are his side’s only injury concerns with the pair out long term.
After a solid all round team display against Down, Clare slipped up against Louth as they failed to take enough of their chances.
Despite being disappointed with the defeat in the immediate aftermath, the Kilmurry-Ibrickane man feels that with his side having already reached the quarter finals, Clare were missing the added motivation that a knockout game brings.
“Statistically it was pretty much as good if not a better performance than the Down one but we didn’t take our chances. In effect it was a dead rubber. We were going to be playing either Longford or Roscommon and they are both really good teams. There was an element of complacency even though we wanted to keep our winning run going.”
“We probably didn’t have the enthusiasm that we needed. We really targeted the Down game and then I think we had some emotional fatigue, like the Clare hurlers had after the Munster final. We tried to get up again but we had the safety net there. The big thing now is that we learn because a performance like that won’t be good enough.”
Talty is keen to stress that his side are still on a decent run of form. After a Connacht Championship campaign in which they won all three of their games, a powerful opening half display saw them ease past Down in the opening round of the All Ireland series.
Although the unbeaten run came to an end, he feels his side got what they required out of the group stages.
“If you break it down, we were disappointed with the league phase and delighted with what we got out of the Connacht (Championship) phase. In the Championship group phase, if you look at the two in their totality, we would be happy with where we are.”
“We don’t have to be the best team all year. We just have to be for 60 minutes, three times over the next couple of months. If you look at the Mayo men, they win games but when they need to they come alive. We want to do the same. It’s important to realise we are on a good run.”
The Kilmurry-Ibrickane man insists Longford hold the favourites tag after they downed a fancied Kildare side before beating Division Three champions Roscommon to top the group.
With Michelle Farrell kicking 1-9 against Roscommon in their last game to help Longford finish top of their group, the sharpshooter will need to see her influence curbed if Clare are to progress to the semi final stage.
“Any team we play now is going to have good players. No matter who we have inside, if there is a heap of space in front of a forward then we are in trouble. Clodagh Lohan and Michelle are exceptionally good footballers and we have to keep an eye on them.
“If we work hard enough we hope to keep the ball away from that side of the pitch so that’s what we want to do.”
Talty feels that his side will need to bring a renewed energy to the heat of battle if they are to have any chance of winning their first quarter final since 2016.
“Attack is the best form of defence. We need to have mass energy, workrate and move the ball fast. We will create chances so it’s just about taking them. If we do what we did against Down then we are in with a great shout. If we do what we did against Louth then we will have a sad bus coming home. I’ve no doubt the girls are ready so it’s up to us to produce a performance.”