Brian Lohan gets to appraise his squad as the Munster Hurling Cup begins, writes Ivan Smyth
NO matter what 15 take to the field for Clare’s Munster Hurling Cup clash with Waterford in Cusack Park this Saturday (throw in 1.30pm), the goal for the players selected will be the same, lay down the gauntlet for the rest of the year.
With the competition being run on a knockout basis, Brian Lohan wants to see the younger players impress from the start against a Waterford side who will also be out for the first time this year.
“The big thing with any pre season competition is to get game time into lads. The players who have joined the panel have been working hard and training hard. We’ve got good opposition at the weekend so it’s an opportunity for players to show what they can do.”
“It’ hard enough to get these opportunities. You want to play as many guys as possible. We have 39 players in the panel who want to play. We have a few injuries but that gives an opportunity for other guys to stake a claim. You have to win games at inter county so in games like this it’s an opportunity for guys to get game time.”
Peter Duggan has linked up with the panel but is not expected to feature against Waterford as Lohan simply states that he is “not in contention this weekend” while not disclosing the ailment the Clooney-Quin marksman is currently experiencing.
Séadna Morey is not in the panel at this moment in time as he is undecided on if he will return to the Clare fold this year. Tony Kelly, Aidan McCarthy, John Conlon, David Fitzgerald, Cian Galvin and Pat O’Connor are all on the treatment table with a new look side expected for the clash with Waterford.
They will also be without Robin Mounsey this weekend as he lines out with Corofin in their Munster Intermediate Club Championship Final this Sunday.
The two time All Ireland winner states the biggest challenge for any young player joining an inter county panel is adjusting to the greater physical demands on their body.
“The biggest issue is the physicality of the game now. The conditioning players have over a number of years is a massive factor. Fellas from other counties have top notch S+C done for five to six years. They will have professional conditioning with diet and advice. That is something that has been invested in players since about the age of 14. That’s an area we probably need to improve on but we are getting there.”
With the Fitzgibbon Cup kicking off next week, the former UL manager knows the pressures placed on younger players this time of year. However, he believes the competition is valuable for the development of players.
“I think it is a brilliant competition. I’m a big supporter of it. It is a great opportunity to get game time and there is a really good standard across the competition. Any guys we have we encourage them to play. We have a number of guys in Mary I, LIT and UL. You can have established players and younger ones both using it as a platform. It’s an excellent competition and I’d be encouraging players to play Fitzgibbon or even Freshers hurling.”
The Shannon man, who will once again be joined by Ken Ralph, James Moran and Sean Treacy in his management team, believes last year’s county championship was among the most competitive in recent memory. He does admit that the County Championship finishing in mid November was a source of frustration.
“It as frustrating that the County Championship went on so long. Between relegation and Munster club it’s been a rush trying to get players together. They are just challenges we have had to deal with.”
“It was a really competitive Championship with a number of teams there or thereabouts. All the teams were at a similar level. Ballyea beat Inagh-Kilnamona by a point, Inagh/Kilnamona just got over Éire Óg. It was the same with Ballyea against Newmarket. A number of players came across my radar and definitely came across Terence Fahy’s radar.”
“Now the established guys will need to perform to a county level while younger guys have to make the step up to under 20 or senior squads. Anyone who performs well but is not in a county squad will need to work hard on different areas including their strength and conditioning because that’s vital in the game today.”
Although Lohan is entering his third year in charge, 2022 will hopefully be the first time that COVID does not have a major bearing on the GAA calendar with his previous two campaigns impacted by the pandemic.
“The big thing for us was to do a pre season or get in some elements of it. Year one we were late going in. Then Covid hit and we probably didn’t manage the time as well as we could have.
“Year two was a bit disjointed and we were not doing what we would like to be doing at times. This year we will face whatever is put in front of us and try improve what we are doing.”