AS the curtain raises on another national league campaign for Clare, manager Brian Lohan insists his squad want to go on a run in this year’s league and to make the most out of every inter-county game his side have this year.
Clare kick off their campaign against Carlow this Sunday in Cusack Park and Lohan and his charges are keen to hit the ground running.
“We are looking to go as far as we can in the national league. There aren’t that many inter-county games in a year; this year we are only scheduled to have 10. Five of those are national league games, so that tells you how important they are.
“You’re also going to try and see as many guys playing as possible, but at the same time you’re going to be trying to win games and get a bit of confidence from that. There is nothing worse than losing games so, it will be a bit of a balance between giving as many guys as much game time as possible but at the same time, you’re trying to get as many wins as possible,” Lohan said.
While the national league is a key time for experimentation for many counties, Lohan also pointed out that the balance between experimenting too much and winning games is a very fine one, and one that Clare are keen to stay on the right side of in 2020.
“Nobody wants to lose games or goes out to lose games so we will be aiming to avoid defeat all the time, but sometimes you just have to try and learn as much as you can and hope you get the benefit of that down the line. It is a trade-off. We would absolutely love a scenario of being able to give all 36 members of the panel game time, and then win all our games too but, realistically that just doesn’t happen,” Lohan pointed out.
The new Clare boss says that while it is always great to face off against rivals such as Limerick and Tipperary in the league, this “unusual” group presents a new set of challenges that excites the Clare squad and backroom team.
“I don’t know how it happened [NHL group breakdowns], to be honest; it is a bit unusual. You do look forward to the games against Limerick, Tipperary and Cork. The teams you play against in the Munster championship are always great tests and we have great rivalries built up with all those counties, so it will be different but at the same time we’re really looking forward to the different challenges that will be posed to us.
“We saw it with Laois and how they played last year. It wasn’t just one performance or a freak performance; they were consistent throughout the year and unlucky against Tipperary in that All-Ireland quarter-final. There is very little between a lot of counties now and Laois proved that last year,” Lohan believes.
Clare have three home fixtures to Carlow, Laois and Dublin that they will be hopeful of winning but also face into two difficult journeys away to Wexford and Kilkenny. Brian says a great deal can be learned from these very tough encounters.
“The two away games are going to be big challenges. Wexford had a great year last year and were very unlucky not to be in an All-Ireland final and if they had gotten to the All-Ireland final you would have fancied them to win it, especially with Limerick being gone out of it. Obviously, Kilkenny being who they are with their storied history and brilliant track record down in Nowlan Park – that will be a very big game for us.
“Not playing Munster teams can work both ways. You can benefit from not facing an opponent, but you can also learn an awful amount from playing teams in the league, it really can go both ways. We will be trying to learn as much as we possibly can throughout the league, hopefully win as many games as we can and then see where that leaves us,” Lohan concluded.