Do or die for Clare

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IT’S not a case of win or bust for Clare on Saturday at the County Grounds, but certainly defeat will spell the end of the county’s hopes of still being in the Oscar Traynor Trophy race on the other side of the new year.

And, there’s a creeping confidence that Clare can take that next step towards the knockout stages where they haven’t been since 2010 when they reached their second national final, only to go down to a brilliant Wexford side in the final at the County Grounds.

“A win would set up nicely, because that would leave our final game against Roscommon who have lost both their games. If we were to draw with Galway it would mean that we’d have to beat Roscommon in the last game and hopefully then Limerick would beat Galway. That would give us four points, but ideally the best scenario is if we go and win our last two games,” adds Murphy, who is in his first year as Oscar Traynor manager.

Facing into the first test, Murphy has been able to welcome back a host of experienced performers, among them Eoin O’Brien, Eoin Hayes and Colin Ryan from Newmarket-on-Celtic who were tied up with their Newmarket-on-Fergus hurling commitments until recently as well as David Russell and Dave McCarthy of Avenue United.

“Having the players back will make us a lot more experienced and a lot more streetwise,” says Murphy. “In the first game against Limerick, we were inexperienced but we had nothing to lose really and in that sense it was ideal for us.

“The majority of the time Limerick are going to put away most teams. They had nine players who had played League of Ireland playing that day. We had 11 players who had never played for Clare before. We got to see who was up to that level and who wasn’t. We learned loads from that game because we were playing against class players, some of whom had been over in England for a while,” he adds.

Clare lost that game by 2-0, but still hope to slip in on the Shannonsiders’ coat-tails into the knockout stages, albeit that Murphy admits that nothing will come easy against Galway this coming Saturday.

“Galway are an experienced team and they put away Roscommon very easily,” he says. “We will have our work cut out against them, but we have them at home. It’s been hard enough to prepare because we have been let down for a few friendlies because of the weather. You can’t expect clubs to give up their pitch for a friendly and then we go along and destroy it.

“Another thing is that by the time we play on Saturday, with the exception of the Avenue, Bridge United and Ennis Town Rock players, many of the lads in the squad wouldn’t have had a game in a couple of weeks.

“It’s been a case of just getting on with it. We played a friendly last Friday night against Limerick Under 20s on Aisling Annacotty’s artificial surface, while we have been doing all our training at Lees Road or Kilmaley’s facility, while this Wednesday we are in UL,” he adds.

“We are just now just itching for the game to go ahead. The team that plays on Saturday will be a mix of those who played against Limerick and the lads we have back. We will bring a few experienced lads back, so hopefully that will help us get the result.”

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on [email protected]

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