Clare begin their U-20 football championship campaign on Wednesday evening when they host Waterford in the Munster quarter-final.
Hennessey Park in Miltown will host the fixture with Clare coming into the game off the back of a mixed pre-season which saw them reach the O’Connor Cup final before losing out to Offaly.
Manager Michael Neylon is confident that they are ready for the challenge but admits they will not know where they are until the first whistle is blown.
“It feels like we have only been with the players for five minutes in this campaign it has been so quick. We are delighted with the response and we feel preparations have gone well but we are also very aware that everything up to now has only been preparations and it will all come down to championship. We have about 30 players who have been with us from the beginning and they are extremely committed. They have energised us as a management team and hopefully we have done something similar for them. We are at the stage now where the calendar has come to a point where it is up to us as a group to make it keep flowing. We have to be ready to a job next Wednesday night to make sure that we perform and do the things that we have been working on over the last few months” he noted.
Clare’s last outing saw them lose out to Offaly in the O’Connor Cup final, but Neylon is confident they can put that result behind them now that the real business of championship has rolled around.
He said: “The O’Connor Cup final gave us exactly what we wanted, which was a championship style test, which we failed. We have had to learn from that and while we were down for a week after it, we have lifted ourselves again. The players have responded really well and it is up to us now to right a lot of those wrongs we had against Offaly that day. It has put us on edge and the atmosphere in the camp changed totally after that game. We were flying high up to then and suddenly we got a really big shock and the focus has been on ourselves since. We have questioned each other and engaged with the players, and the players have really stepped up. We realise now it is not about what people say you are capable of, it is about what you do when you go out on the pitch. We know our opposition are coming all guns blazing to win and we are going to be up against a real test”.
Neylon will have senior experience to call on with the likes of Emmet McMahon and Cillian Rouine set to play key roles on Wednesday night. He admits everyone will need to fully focused on the task at hand if they are to book their spot in the last four.
“We have had decent access to the lads on the senior panel and we will be drawing on the work we put in before Christmas when we had those lads available to us for training and matches too. The last few weeks saw National League action take priority but at the same time, we are not going into this springing players from the blue. We know what they are about and they know what our systems are about and it is about just getting fine tuned before next week. We look like we are in good shape and we should have everyone available to pick from for Wednesday night. The way conditions have been for the last few weeks means that the weather will be a huge factor in these games. It will dictate what we do with the ball and we expect it will be blustery and wet but Waterford will be well used of those conditions too. We will also be keeping it in the backs of our minds that Waterford won this fixture last year, they beat us at minor level last year and they really tested us at senior level too. Our minds are focused and we realise that nothing short of a serious effort will get us over the line” he concluded.
Clare v Waterford gets underway next Wednesday evening in Hennessey Park in Miltown at 7pm