Clare get their 2019 National Ladies Division Two Football League campaign underway this Sunday afternoon when they host Kerry in Doonbeg with a 2pm start.
It’s a tough opener for James Murrihy’s side, who will be looking to improve on last year’s showing when they picked up just one win but managed to avoid relegation.
Banner Ladies clubwoman Laurie Ryan captains Clare once more in 2019, and feels while it’s a tough opener, it’s one they’re looking forward to.
“When you get back training, you’re always counting down to your first competitive match. We are really looking forward to this one now. We know we have a big challenge on our hands with Kerry and even though we have them at home, it’s going to be a huge task to start off with. These are the kind of games you would get excited about though so we can’t wait to get going” she said.
It’s the first of a tough 7 game campaign for the Banner, with clashes against Armagh, Tyrone, Wexford, Waterford, Laois and Cavan to follow in the coming weeks.
The Kingdom are newly relegated from the top tier and are strongly fancied to bounce back at the first time of asking. Laurie says having them first up means that everyone will be ready from the word go.
“You’re not going to find a much better team than Kerry to get the year underway. They were in the Munster Final last year and won it the year before. We want to be challenging ourselves against the best teams and having the opportunity to play Kerry in the league will really stand to us later on in the year when championship rolls around” she noted.
While Clare appointed a new coach in DJ Collins, it wasn’t an unfamiliar face to the captain. She had already worked under the Limerick man during her time with UL, and says he will bring another dimension to the Banner set-up.
She said: “We know plenty about each other over the last few years with UL so I’d say he is sick of looking at me at this stage. It’s been brilliant to have him and be able to make use of his knowledge of ladies football has been great. Martin McMahon brought us to another level last year so it’s great that we have another coach of really quality coming in now with DJ. He’s really been building on what was achieved in 2018 to make sure that we are always on the front foot. Enda O’Halloran from Kilmihil has come in with us too and we still have the likes of Paul Dunne there with us since last year which is great. It’s always nice to have an element of freshness and having those new voices to listen to will hopefully drive us on now for the year. All the girls in the squad would have a massive amount of respect for DJ after seeing what he achieved with UL and then on the inter-county scene with Mayo and Monaghan so his credentials in the game really do speak for themselves”.
Clare struggled for form in the league in 2018, but the previous two campaigns had seen them reach the semi-final stage, along with an appearance in the All-Ireland intermediate championship final in Croke Park in 2016. The captain admits they’re setting the bar high in terms of what they want to achieve this season.
“Maintaining our status in Division Two has to be a minimum requirement for us this year, that’s definitely where we have to start. There’s some really quality sides in there with us, including a good number of senior teams, so it’s going to be a huge task to stay up there. The beauty of that is if you can manage to get a few early wins, then you can start looking up the table and hopefully get back to the semi-final stages which would be great to look forward to. Being able to compete in Division Two has really stood to us in the last few years because we are getting games of real quality and you learn a lot about yourself when you’re up against the senior teams. They just do things at a really high tempo and being able to experience that kind of opponent is brilliant preparation for playing the intermediate championship. We have a Munster championship this year too which we didn’t have in 2018, so it would be great to be going into that off the back of a positive league campaign” said the captain.
Clare v Kerry gets underway on Sunday afternoon in Doonbeg with a 2pm start.