CONOR Mullen knows what it takes to win Oscar Traynor titles as he right back has done so twice with Clare and the captain thinks his side can go all the way once again.
Clare face a tough Wexford side riddled with class but Mullen says the knockout stages hold no fears for his side.
“Since we have progressed past the group stages, we have the pick of all of Clare now, which is ideal. It is great to have lads that have been there and done that to come back into the side. To have two junior internationals returning to the side [Stephen Kelly and Eoin Hayes] is going to make a huge difference.
“Soccer in Clare is very strong at the moment with Newmarket doing so well, Avenue are getting back to where they should be – the standard in this county is very strong. Obviously, the standard in Wexford is very good too but with all the players we have at our disposal, we are quietly confident, without trying to be cocky,” Mullen confessed.
Things could have been different for Clare as they trailed in their final group game which would have seen them crash out of the competition but battling qualities and goals for Cian O’Dea and Kieran Mahony saw them top the close-knit group.
“Limerick District, Desmond and Kerry were all gunning for us. We lost our first game against Limerick District and to be honest, I don’t think we deserved to lose it. We were 1-0 up with about 20 minutes to go and we had a bad five-minute period and we were punished for it.
“To come back and beat Kerry at home was great as that was a really tough game. Then we played the Desmond and at half-time we were 1-0 down and were going out of the competition and to come back and win that was brilliant, meaning we then topped the group.
“We now have the return of a good few players and our squad has 18 in it now. The likes of Stephen Kelly, Eoin O’Brien and Eoin Hayes to come back in. It’s going to be a tough game at the weekend, but we are going to back ourselves all the way,” Mullen said.
Another layer of intrigue is added to the tie due to Shane Keegan, Clare’s manager, managed a lot of the Wexford team at Wexford Youths and will know all their intricacies. Mullen says Clare also have fond memories of a clash between the sides in 2017.
“When we won the Oscar Traynor three years ago, we played Wexford in the semi-final, down in Wexford. We went down there, and they had a big crowd and they were a really good side, but we managed to win 2-0. It was a really good game and we managed to keep the clean sheet. There will be at least five or six of that playing on Saturday again. We will take great confidence from the fact we went down there and have beaten them before.
“The fact our gaffer, Shane Keegan, managed Wexford Youth in the League of Ireland too means he will know a lot about their players which is a great help. They’re a serious side though and got out of a tough group. It’s as tough a game as you’re going to get.
“It’s a four-hour trip for the Wexford boys and it will be a tough day for them. We know the pitch inside out and know what we like to do there. It would be great to get the crowd behind us, so hopefully the Clare footballing community come out and support us.
“We have got some real quality now and with the likes of Mark Roche, Dylan Casey and Kieran Mahony – you have winners all over the pitch there and you are just hoping that no one will be fazed by the day. We’re quite hopeful,” Mullen said.