THE prospect of a new era for Clare hurling at senior level dawned in Semple Stadium on Sunday when Davy Fitzgerald’s young side took the first step towards re-establishing the county as a major force in Munster.
In beating Waterford by 2-20 to 1-15 to end a Munster championship drought of five years, Clare moved to within 70 minutes of a rare provincial appearance on July 14 next.
Cork – a team that Clare have already beaten on three occasions in competitive fare this year now stand between Clare and a place in the provincial decider against either champions Tipperary or Limerick, who meet in the first semi-final this coming Sunday.
“We’re not the finished article but it’s nice to get our first championship win under our belt in a while,” said Fitzgerald in the wake of Sunday’s triumph.
“I think 2008 was our last championship win so that’s five years without a win so we’ll take the win. They are good lads and I have great belief in them. I keep saying that this is a process. If people want to build us up, that’s no problem. We’re just not buying into that stuff because we know there’s a process ahead of us and that’s it.
“It will happen for them, they are a good bunch and it mightn’t be this year I don’t know, but it will come for them. Trust me, they are the real deal. They are as honest as it comes and they just need to mature. And I hope people give them time to mature,” added Fitzgerald.
“It’s the first Munster Championship win, it’s not an All-Ireland or Munster title so we’ll keep it in perspective,” said captain Patrick Donnellan.
“It was important to win to get to a semi-final and it will be important to win the semi-final to get to the final and that’s kind of the way we’re treating it. We are not getting too carried away by it,” he added.
“We don’t look any further than Cork the next day,” stressed Fitzgerald. “We have too much respect for them to do anything else. People can say what they like but we know we’ve a big game the next day.”
Clare last reached the Munster final in 2008, their only provincial decider appearance since the glory years of the 1990s when they appeared in six finals from 1993 to 1999, winning titles in 1995, ‘97 and ‘98.
Full match analysis and reaction in this week’s Clare People