Clare know that a share of the spoils with Limerick Desmond in Askeaton this Saturday evening will be enough to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
This is Clare’s third and final group game having lost 2-1 to Limerick District on Halloween night and beaten Kerry 2-1 in Frank Healy Park in December.
Manager Shane Keegan has said his side will be gunning for all three points as if Clare get the win, they will top the group and secure a home draw from the quarter-finals.
“If we lose, we’re out. If we draw, we’re through, and if we win, we top the group and have a home quarter-final draw. It’s really that simple, literally anything can happen. We knew from the start of the group that it could go in any direction and I said to the lads at training that we could top the group or come last. The fear after the first game was, we’d lose to Kerry and finish last, but the lads played really well that day and battled for the win, and now we could be looking at topping the group,” Keegan pointed out.
Keegan knows the unbeaten Limerick Desmond pose a tough task but says his players are more than capable of getting what’s needed from the game.
In particular, their striker Patrick Ahern landed two goals and an assist in their 4-0 demolition of Limerick District, and the striker will need to be closely attended.
“I went to watch Limerick Desmond against Limerick District and to be honest I was expecting them to be beaten quite easily. It turned out they were brilliant, and Desmond hammered them 4-0. So, this will be far from an easy task. Their attacking play was really fantastic, so that is something we will have to watch out for. It is going to be a big test for sure.
“We would love to come out of the group on top but most important is we just get out of it, one way or another so we need a big performance,” Keegan confessed.
The nature of the Oscar Traynor and the length of time between games means uncertainty as to who is available for selection is an ever-present headache for managers.
This headache lingers as Clare will be without Junior international Stephen Kelly due to the Christening of his child.
“You just don’t really know until your first or second get-together who is around for selection and that is the way it is with Oscar Traynor, unfortunately. It’s the same everywhere. I’ve seen it in my home league too this year. It is very, very hard to get Oscar Traynor panels together for training sessions. We will train twice this week and we’ll know then who we have and haven’t,” Keegan confessed.
Keegan will be hoping to have the lethal front trio of Eoin Hayes, Kieran Mahoney and Rory Hayes to pick from as well as welcoming back Newmarket’s Callum McNamara.
Derek Fahy may also be a late inclusion to the team. Having been tied up with Sixmilebridge until November, Fahy is likely to play a part this weekend, as Keegan described the Clare hurling goalie “as very good for him last year”.
The game kicks off in Clounreask, Askeaton at 6:30pm this Saturday evening.