After getting a taste of championship action in 2020, Colin Guilfoyle’s appetite has been sharpened over the prolonged close season. He spoke with Eoin Brennan ahead of Clare’s league opener.
Having been on the panel since 2018, Colin Guilfoyle’s impactful cameos in the Munster and National Leagues never materialised into championship minutes until last winter when starting berths against Laois and Wexford coincided with successive qualifier victories.
Even the disappointment of missing out on the All-Ireland Quarter-Final against Waterford has been used as motivational leverage for the towering Newmarket-on-Fergus forward to hopefully redress the balance when the sides lock horns once more in the Munster Championship opener at the end of June.
“Time flies really. I’m going into my fourth year on the panel now and it’s mad when you think about it. Even to get the call up in the first place was a bit of a shock but I suppose every player develops differently and you just have to keep your head down and work hard to get a jersey.
“Luckily I got my chance in the All-Ireland series last year and it was a great experience that has really focused the mind again for the winter. And for the last few months, I’ve had that motivation to really push on and fully make the breakthrough hopefully this year.
“It’s just great to be back on the field now. We didn’t really get together at all post the Waterford game last year but we’ve all worked really, really hard with our gym and running with Mike Carmody, Trevor [Slattery] and Shane Hassett.
“And now that we’re back, we feel we have massive work done in those areas so it’s now about trying to get our hurling up to speed.
“To be honest, there’s a real good buzz around the place. Obviously there is an inevitable lift to be back on the field together but the atmosphere is heightened because there’s so much competition for places.
“There’s 38 lads on the panel at the moment and realistically everyone has a shot. That’s the great thing about Brian [Lohan] and his management team, everyone is in the picture and everyone has a chance.”
There are plenty of opportunities to impress too as following a six month drought, Clare have five National League matches in the next six weeks, the perfect barometer to evaluate where they lie ahead of this year’s championship series.
“I work with John [Conlon] in St Aidan’s [Shannon] and we were even chatting about it in school that the condensed structures gives you a completely different perspective on your season.
“We got this big bank of physical preparation with individual running and S&C work and now it’s predominantly collective hurling training and matches to look forward to. It’s great to be going week-on-week and maybe in contrast to other National League campaigns, the emphasis isn’t as much on results as everyone will be using it to find their feet and form again after such a long lay off.
“But for us, it’s great to be looking forward to playing again and obviously the main focus is Waterford at the end of June, but we’ve loads of tough tasks before then and equally loads of chances to try and stake a claim for a place ahead of that one.”
The first test inexorably arrives this Sunday with an 800km round trip to Belfast to take on newcomers Antrim who are on the crest of a wave following a National League (Division 2A) and Championship (Joe McDonagh Cup) double triumph in 2020.
“It’s a trip that is very unusual in the times that we’re in. You can’t get a bus and we will be staying overnight and for a large chunk of the panel, it will be the first time that they’ve played a match in Ulster.
“So it will be an experience for us all and look hopefully we can just get off to a good start and hit the ground running because as I’ve said we’re almost week-on-week up until that championship opener against Waterford so a good start is really important.
“We fully respect Antrim, they had a great year last year and Darren Gleeson is doing massive work up there so going up there is going to be a really, really tough test to start off with but hopefully we can just show the work we’ve done in the last few months and get off on the right foot.”