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Intermediates prepare to face the Déise

CLARE intermediate hurling manager Kevin Kennedy is surprised that there was a move earlier this year to do away with the inter-county intermediate hurling championship. He is glad that the move failed as he believes it is a great grade.
“It gives fellas a chance to progress from U-21 to senior level and it certainly has a role to play,” he told The Clare Champion this week as he completed the preparations for Clare’s opening game in the championship next Monday when they take on Waterford at Semple Stadium (throw-in at 1pm).
“We have a number of players who were part of the Clare All-Ireland winning U-21 team last year who haven’t yet made it to the senior squad. This is a relatively young squad with just one player over 30,” said the St Joseph’s clubman.
Kennedy’s management team includes Niall Romer (Kilmaley), Tommy Donoghue (Tubber), John O’Sullivan (Ruan) and Michael Carey (Corofin).
“We were only appointed in April so we haven’t had that much time together. We have played a lot of challenge games and we have two this weekend to complete our arrangements. We play Kerry on Friday and then we will play Limerick next Tuesday,” he explained.
To date, Clare have played challenge games against Galway clubs Kiltormer, Ardrahan, Liam Mellows and Gort. The team to play Waterford will be named towards the end of next week.
In recent years, Kennedy has been critical of the support received from the clubs and from the senior management of the day but this year said that while there is still room for improvement, things have improved in these areas.
“This has been one of the better years in terms of co-operation from the clubs and from the senior management,” he said.
Members of last year’s All-Ireland winning U-21 squad who are in contention for places in the team include Ciaran O’Doherty, who led the U-21s to glory, Patrick Kelly, Damian Browne and Patrick O’Connor.
The goalkeeping position rests between Ger O’Connell (Clonlara) and Andrew Fahy (Whitegate) and O’Connell’s greater experience, as he was the Clare goalkeeper when the county won the minor All-Ireland in 1997, may give him the edge when it comes to selection time.
Newmarket captain, Stephen Kelly is expected to be at full-back, while others pressing for places in the starting line-up are Michael Hawes, Seán Chaplin (Cratloe), Tomás O’Donovan (Clonlara), Kevin Dilleen (St Joseph’s), Joe O’Connor (Parteen) and Padraic Hickey (Broadford).
Kennedy admits to knowing little about Waterford at this level but says, “They won’t be easily beaten. We have been doing well in the challenge games but we really won’t know until the day how things will shape up.”
Last year, Clare went out in round one to Cork, losing by five points, 1-14 to 2-16.
Given the fact that Clare have a number of All-Ireland medal winners from last year’s U-21 championship in their line-up, it may be enough to swing the tie in their direction.

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