James Murrihy is facing into his second year as manager of the Clare Ladies Footballers.
His first season in charge saw Clare retain their status in Division Two of the National League, but their championship season came to an end at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Meath.
The new campaign gets underway this Sunday against Kerry, but Clare have a few injury concerns ahead of that game, most notably to star attacker Niamh O’Dea who is struggling to be fit after suffering a hamstring injury.
Murrihy is confident they’re ready for what’s in store.
“It’s probably the toughest start we could have asked for with Kerry first up. They would look at themselves as being in the top 5 teams in the country. From our own point of view, we have to be happy with what we have done since we started back in November. The girls have prepared really well and put in a massive effort so we can’t ask for any more than that. When you have new players coming into a new squad, they’re always going to be enthusiastic and they’re always to making a big effort to prove themselves. That infusion of new blood will push the rest of the panel to try and improve themselves too, and that can only lead to an improved standard in 2019” he said.
Murrihy took over from Neil Moynihan as manager of the Clare Ladies footballers in 2018, in what was his first managerial appointment at inter-county level. He brought a wealth of club experience to the role, having guided Corofin to the intermediate football title, while also playing a key role in Kilmurry Ibrickane’s championship successes in 2016 and 2017. He admits that coming in fresh to the position 12 months ago meant that everyone was learning on the job.
“From my perspective, it’s my second year in the job, and in mid-January last year I still had 50 players on the panel and it was more about trials and trying to pick a panel. As we went through the league then, the focus moved to finding out about the girls and giving everyone as much game time as possible. This time around, we have more of a settled panel and there is competition for places on the starting 15. I feel we are in a far better place than this time last year and I would like to think that we will be in a position to get any relegation worries out of the way and then maybe try and push to get into those semi-final spots” said Murrihy.
Kerry will be the first of five senior teams that Clare will face throughout the seven games, and Murrihy feels this is something that will prove invaluable as the year goes on.
He said: “If you look at our league campaign last year, we didn’t have a great one. The standard of games that we played though really stood us in good stead when championship rolled around, and certainly played a part in us getting out of what was a really tough group. I would like to think that it will be something similar this year in terms of the league games, because you are playing teams who are perceived to be better than you and that can only help improve standards as thoughts turn to the championship. We have a really good coach brought in this year with DJ Collins, and he is building on what Martin McMahon did last year. They’re actually quite similar in how they approach the game in terms of playing attacking football and getting the girls to do the right things and make the right decisions on the ball. DJ brings huge experience to the set-up and for Clare, it’s a huge coup to have him. It works out nicely that he lives in Limerick works in UL so we are only across the river from him and hopefully it will be a successful year with him as coach”.
All focus for the moment is on the challenge that Kerry will bring to Doonbeg on Sunday, but Murrihy is confident they are braced to meet the challenge head on.
“We have been working on stuff over the last few months on the training field and what we will be looking for on Sunday will be a performance. We have a couple of key performance indicators that we will be trying to reach and get those things in place. If we can do that over the course of the 60 minutes, then the result will take care of itself after that” he noted.
Clare v Kerry gets underway this afternoon in Doonbeg at 2pm.