CLARE football manager Mick O’Dwyer has urged his players to seize their chance of reaching Croke Park for the first time in nine years by taking the scalp of neighbours Limerick in Sunday’s crunch clash in the final round of the 2013 National League.
The Kerry legend, who won seven league titles as a player with Kerry and then three as a manger before guiding both Kildare and Laois to league deciders in his first years in charge of both counties, has said the carrot of a Croke Park appearance is a huge incentive for Clare to score their first league promotion in 18 years.
“It would be nice to get to Croke Park,” said O’Dwyer. “It’s where any team wants to be playing and we now have a chance to get there. Championship is my priority always, but we want to do well in the league in preparation for championship and this is a big chance,” he added.
These words have been echoed by selector Ger Keane, who told The Clare People that getting as far as Sunday’s game against the Shannonsiders with their league hopes still alive was the goal ever since their shock opening round defeat to Waterford in Hennessy Memorial Park in Miltown.
“After Waterford we said that if we could bring it to the Limerick game it would be great – that it would give us an opportunity at promotion,” said Keane. “It didn’t look great after the Waterford game, but lads really dug deep and we got some great away wins against Leitrim, Offaly and Carlow.
That’s what has given us this opportunity and that’s just what it is – it’s an opportunity that’s going to be a championship type encounter against Limerick,” added Keane, who was a member of the last Clare squad to win league promotion in 1995 when the county reached the Division 1 quarter-final in John O’Keeffe’s first year in charge.
“It’s a great chance for us,” continued Keane. “We have come a long way. As the league has gone on we’ve got a few more players back, we have a few more options up our sleeve, even for the next day we’ll have one or two more back.
“There is nothing between the sides and we know that Limerick are eyeing us up. We are going to have to up it another level or two. What we did against London was good, we’ve had some great wins but this is going to be the hardest game yet,” the Kilkee man added.
For match report and analysis as well as an in-depth preview of Sunday’s Clare v Limerick game in Cusack Park see pages 74, 75 & 76 of this week’s Clare People