A Clare senior footballer since 2008, Martin McMahon has never played in a division above the
basement league. That will change for him and his colleagues on Sunday when Clare play Wexford in
their opening fixture of the division 3 league. The Mullagh man, who teaches at St Munchin’s in
Limerick, was working in Dublin for several years before finding employment in the mid west. Not
having to drive to and from the capital every weekend is something that he appreciates and feels
fresher for it.
“One thing I never really liked was the travelling. In Dublin you were leaving every Friday evening
and heading back every Sunday evening. Then when you were getting close to championship you
were up and down twice during the week. The best thing I find about being down is that you can do
your gym sessions in groups. When I first started in Dublin there was only about two players away. I
got in with one or two clubs but even at that it’s still not the same standard. Whereas at least if
there’s a few of you there you tend to do it,” the diminutive yet hugely effective corner back has
To play inter-county GAA you have no choice; a player simply cannot take on any additional pastimes
or do much else outside of work, train, train and sometimes play.
“It’s getting harder and harder. You train or are in the gym at least five times a week and if you have
to spend six or seven hours in a car, it’s just not constructive. Seamus O’Shea was saying that if Mayo
weren’t competing that he wouldn’t be involved. You only really enjoy it if you’re winning and
thankfully last year we were winning and you could see that you were improving. Every player that’s
involved can see that we are improving and that we are getting better. That’s why you enjoy it. If
you see things going backwards, naturally you’re not going to enjoy it and you’ll see lads pulling
away. But at the moment the way things are going, it’s a very happy camp. I think everyone is
getting on with each other and there’s no real trouble within the camp. That’s what you want. You
want lads that are happy with what they’re doing because that’s when they play their best,”
Nobody who has ever seen a ball kicked needs telling that physical fitness is a significant component
in elite level sport. What may pass under the radar is the significance of diet. McMahon says that all
involved with Clare have woken up to this.
“Every player that was there last year has improved on their fitness and body fat tests. That doesn’t
happen over night. Maybe that was a downfall before in that we never really bought into it. Now I
think everyone is buying into it. There is a lot of youth coming through at the moment and it’s great
that they are all coming in and giving it a go. It can only be positive for Clare playing in division 3 is
getting a bit more profile. You need everyone on board. Any player that is good enough to wear the
jersey or be part of a panel is needed. You can even see in the panel games that there is a fair bit of
intensity in the games whereas beforehand, when you were struggling with numbers it was hard to
get that intensity.”
McMahon has also noticed that players are much more accountable in that their every move and
occasional non move is analysed and highlighted. The days of scoring a few points or keeping your
man scoreless and thinking you were the man are dwindling.
“You’d come out of some games thinking you played well but when you go back to the video, you
see that three points came from something that you had missed. Another day a player might be
thinking that he didn’t really get on the ball but maybe the three or four tackles that he put in could
have been vital. The best example we see is when the forward tracks back and tracks all the way
back. He doesn’t touch the ball but that tracking stops a score, where other times a player might say,
‘I kicked five points today, I had a great game.’ There is so much detail now gone into it, you have to
produce the all round performance,” he said.
Clare were guided by their accountability mantra and the “process” for most of last year but not
“Chris De Looze (strength and conditioning coach) is very good at that. He says that we know what
we want to do but we can’t forget about the process. That’s being drilled into us, that to get the win
you have to go through the same process and do the basics which maybe in other years and in one
or two games last year, we forgot. We wanted to go out and play football but we forgot about the
basics. The main game where that happened was the Waterford game in the championship the first
day. We wanted to put on a performance but we forgot about how you put on a performance. We
forgot about the basics of needing to get in for the breaks, tracking the man and not standing up,”
Clare know that to thrive in division 3 they’ll have to up their level from 2014.
“The way we’re looking at it is that what we did in division 4 won’t do this year in division 3. So we
have to up our standards again. After the championship last year we saw that we could compete.
Now it’s just a case of getting the victories. That was the disappointing thing that came out of last
year. We didn’t beat anyone that was ranked above us. That’s what we’re going to look to build on
now. I think all the lads and management have done a lot of work towards improving. I think we’re
ahead of where we were this time last year,” the Kilmurry Ibrickane man believes.
McMahon feels that Clare are approaching a time where they win games that they are capable of
winning, instead of losing games they should win like their league opener against Waterford in 2013.
“The most disappointing thing about our league campaigns before last year was teams that we lost
to, we always felt ‘we should have won that game.’ Now we’re going out playing different teams and
we still have the same expectations. We’re going out to win every game. The one thing that has
been drilled into us since Colm (Collins) got involved is that we have targets to hit. It doesn’t matter
what team you’re playing, if you don’t hit those targets, you’re not going to win. Maybe against a
division 4 team it’s easier to hit those targets but now we have to step up again,” he reiterated.
Gaelic football isn’t the only sport McMahon gives his time to. He has taken to coaching rugby at St
Munchin’s which has elicited a few barbed comments from some of his inter-county team-mates.
“The boys are making off that with a few of the tackles that I have put in over the years, it’s probably
a game close to my heart,” the ultra consistent Clare defender laughed.