CLARE will look to bounce back from a losing start to the 2019 Oscar Traynor competition against Limerick, as they welcome Kerry to Frank Healy Park this Sunday.
Clare narrowly lost 2-1 to Limerick District League in Jackman Park on Halloween night, having taken the lead and manager Shane Keegan says there are enough positives to build on from that performance, in a game he says is a ‘must not lose’.
“If we got a draw from this, we’d still be in with a fighting chance going into the last game. The scoreline of the other group game [Limerick Desmond 4-0 Limerick District] has blown this group apart.
“Kerry are always strong and they will be there or thereabouts. Going on form lines, you’d be concerned for us but at the same time, it is one of those groups where you could see all the teams finishing between four and six points, so it will be a really interesting one,” Keegan said.
He has great belief in the ability of the team and said that the GAA contingent that the squad boasts this year is helping massively. He also said the fitness of Eoin Hayes is a big help looking to Sunday’s clash.
“We have a strong side. I had this side as well last year and we didn’t have as many Newmarket Celtic players but we do have more this year. Stephen Kelly hasn’t been available as of yet, so he is a loss. Eoin Hayes, who is the other Irish international player, wasn’t fully fit for the first game against Limerick, so we couldn’t start him but we should have him back in the side this time, which would potentially strengthen things up for us.
“On the GAA front, Rory [Hayes] was excellent for us the last day and got the goal against Limerick. As was Cian [O’Dea], who put in a super shift. He’s a real athlete and we’ll look for a similar shift from him this weekend.
“We’re also hoping that we can get Derek Fahy involved at some point, even though he isn’t available for this weekend. His hurling commitments are now over, so I’ve been on the phone trying to have him in down the line at some point. I’m from Laois myself and the league I would’ve come up through was the Kilkenny District League, where there was also a big crossover of GAA and soccer players, so it’s no surprise to me that it’s the same in Clare,” Keegan explained.
He said the one advantage his side must capitalise upon is their familiarity with Frank Healy Park, as the Kerry side play their home games on an astro pitch, which Keegan said gives his side the edge.
Clare will be without Callum McNamara, who Keegan deems a “fantastic player, who has all the talent to go to quite a decent level”.
McNamara has been selected on an international squad, based on all those who attend a FÁS course, so is out in Spain playing in a tournament all week and will miss the clash.
Keegan believes his side will rattle the net but must work harder to ensure that they keep a clean sheet at home.
“We have a good side in which creating chances is never going to be an issue. With Kieran Mahony, Eoin and Rory Hayes and lads like that involved, creating chances is never going to be an issue. We will be backing ourselves to be on the scoresheet this weekend. Iit’s just about tightening a few things up at the back and making a few defensive improvements. I know people there will want a good exciting game but I’m hoping for a 1-0 win,” Keegan insisted.