Playing the match and not the occasion is a doctrine that has served Clare well these past few years in what has been a seemingly endless wave of underage success. And despite being on the precipice of potentially a historic third All-Ireland Under 21 title, selector Jimmy Browne is quick to re-emphasise that mantra ahead of perhaps their most difficult decider.
“You have to look back over history, even relatively recent history, that from a Clare point of view appearances in an All-Ireland are something we need to cherish. Having said that I suppose, we have to put the occasion aside and that’s important from the players point of view as well as the management point of view.
“We have to respect the opposition, analyse the opposition and take them apart and then structure ourselves in order to try and win. The occasion will look after itself and hopefully if the lads put in the performance that they are capable of and have being doing at various times of the year, that the result will come from that performance.”
Central to that philosophy is the ability to dissect and evaluate opponent’s strengths and weaknesses in order to formulate a gameplan to prevail, with Wexford’s challenge enough to keep Clare on their toes according to Browne.
“Historically Wexford would be an element of the unknown for Clare but this year you have the added aspect of the seniors playing them twice. On both occasions, Wexford showed huge resilience and character and ability to hurl in every position and I think that’s very good from our point of view. It keeps a focus as we know that we’re playing a serious opposition and I think it’s good that Wexford have had a fantastic year. Their ability to win aerial ball in both half lines is superb and this Wexford team have shown great honesty and character.
“That opens a challenge for us and a challenge which I think as a management team and as a group of players, we relish and it’s great to be going out playing matches like that in which you end up testing yourself against teams like that.
“You have to recognise as we did a few years back that Wexford were building from a low base in the province. They’ve beaten Kilkenny twice and as we all know, Kilkenny have been the benchmark at underage and senior level in Leinster for a long number of years.
“So that’s a huge milestone that they have got over and to be fair, they brushed them [Kilkenny] aside this year. That shows the progress they have made at underage over the last number of years, they have also had a fantastic year this year so winning an All-Ireland for them has to be the culmination of a great year.
“So I think that in itself is going to lead to a fantastically competitive match and it provides us with no shortage of opportunities to keep our guys focused.”

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