Munster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final (Extra-Time if Necessary)
Kerry v Clare @ Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney, Saturday 7pm (Jerome Henry, Mayo)
For all the warranted plaudits earned by the Clare footballers incremental development that brought them to the brink of a potential Division 1 adventure, the cold reality of a paltry record against Kerry cannot be ignored ahead of Saturday’s ultimate showdown.
The fact that of the previous 49 championship meetings between the pair, Clare have only recorded two victories over the Kingdom in 1949 and 1992 is not even the worst statistic either.
Actually, the one figure that really should be read between your fingers is Clare’s record in Fitzgerald Stadium.
During Colm Collins’ tenure, Clare’s average losing championship margin in Ennis has been five points but in Killarney, it’s a whopping 17 which tells its own stark story about the value of home advantage.
Of course, Clare won’t be thinking that way heading down to the Kingdom this Saturday as realistically, with no-one giving them a realistic shot at any upset, the pressure is all on Kerry which gives Clare an element of freedom to try and exploit.
It certainly worked against Mayo last time out but unfortunately it only came after handing the favourites an 11 point head-start which if replicated on Saturday evening, will be curtains for Clare.
Already without the experience of Gordon Kelly and Gary Brennan, 2019 All-Star’s absence was also sorely felt against Mayo as Clare did certainly get a lift from the introduction of Podge Collins and Emmet McMahon from an attacking perspective.
There is an inner belief in Clare that wasn’t apparent before that gives them an outside chance of what would be seen as a seismic upset.
However, on the flip side, a scorned Kerry won’t have a shred of complacency having been knocked out at the first hurdle by an equally unfancied Cork last year, who at the time were plying their trade in Division 3.
And that’s the ultimate factor here, the knock-out element that means that there is no second chances and your entire year rests on one championship outing.
It provides a heightened intensity to every championship outing as no team is too good to be beaten or in Clare’s case, every dog has its day just as in 1992.
Clare will be hoping to need a muzzle and not a poop bag when they take to the field on Saturday evening as in the absence of an noticeable level of supporters, Clare won’t have to deal with a partisan home crowd in their ongoing quest to finally exorcise their Fitzgerald Stadium ghosts.
by Eoin Brennan