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Clare manager Mark Fitzgerald. Photograph by Eugene McCalfferty

New-look Clare begin in Fitz and starts

Weatherwise it was an opening night that lended itself to grit and determination more than anything else as Mark Fitzgerald’s competitive bow as Clare Senior Football Manager got off to a difficult start in Clarecastle on Wednesday evening.
Holding a minimum advantage by the three-quarters mark, the home side would be blitzed by defending McGrath Cup champions Cork in a dominant final quarter that produced an unexpected 14 point turnaround to prevail by 2-14 to 0-8, with the Tralee native looking to take the positives from the bulk of the performance.
“Look, it’s January football in tough weather but we’re relatively happy. It went away from us a little bit there in the second half but when you’re seeing what Cork are pulling off the bench, some very experienced lads really, it was always going to be tough to hold out,” he said.
“We just picked up one or two injuries this week and obviously picked up another in the warm-up so we decided not to risk Cillian [Rouine] but overall we’re relatively happy.
“When you consider the players we have lost, the narrative is that it’s a rebuild and it probably is but equally you’ve still got a lot of decent lads there who showed up well so the challenge is to bring some more lads along with us.”
With only five survivors from the 20 that overcame Cork in last year’s Munster Championship Semi-Final as opposed to eleven from the Rebels, Fitzgerald’s job isn’t an easy one but the absence of experienced performers such as Cillian Brennan, Darragh Bohannon and most recently Emmet McMahon and Mark McInerney, it’s the National League rather than Sunday’s trip to Lemybrien (2pm) that becomes a priority for the new Clare set-up.
“We’ve five or six weeks under our belt so we’ve done a decent bit with them but just the injuries have hurt us a little bit as well as numbers but the lads that have been there have been top class. We’ve Waterford next on Sunday so we’ll probably blood a few more lads for that and then it’s all about the league when Sligo come to Cusack Park a few weeks after that.
“So it will take us a little time and some lads will make mistakes because they’re not very experienced at this level but I still think there’s good core there and a good future for a lot of those Under 20s.”

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