NFL Preview: Building on progress… and hurt

Gary Brennan is taking great confidence from what Clare achieved in 2014 as he gears up to 2015, but at the same time, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh, the team captain says the hurt experienced after the losses to Kerry and Kildare in championship are powerful motivating tools for the challenges that lie ahead.

SINCE the 2015 GAA season cranked to life much dead air and column inches have been given over to player burnout amid tales of the expected — the same ones that surface every year about teams doing more and more, and yet more again, with the official closed season being floated at every turn.
There’s no mea culpa from Clare in that regard, but against the backdrop of claim and counter-claim about training levels, the cool, collected and always deadpan Clare captain Gary Brennan has words that illuminate and educate.
Put simply, he doesn’t feel burned out and neither do any of his comrades as they embrace the challenge of trying to better themselves and build on the promotion from Division 4 that was finally achieved after many years of toil.
Brennan came into the squad in 2007 and is now facing into his ninth National League campaign and has over 50 league appearances behind him, with the reward of promotion having come after many near misses along the way.
“There is a lot of talk about the level of preparation now,” says Bennan, “but it’s something you chose to do, it’s something you enjoy doing so it doesn’t feel like a demand and there’s nobody forcing us to do it. We’re the lucky guys that get to do this. To some people it appears very demanding, but it’s something that we choose to do and get a lot of enjoyment out of.
“There’s big interest there in getting on the panel and on the team, so there’s serious competition for places. Everyone wants to get on that team and wants to contribute, so that’s all for the good of Clare football.

“Every game is a challenge, but this is a really big game,” he says. “We have played a lot of the same teams over the past few years so Wexford will be a slightly different challenge,” he says. “It’s about getting our own side in order, getting things ready and have ourselves in the best shape possible.

“The lads will have a tough time picking the first 15 against Wexford, but we have some guys now that can come in and make an impact from the bench as well. There will be a lot of competition for those first 15 jerseys, but we’re training as a squad and whether you’re number one or 30 you’re equally as important. It’s a mentality that we’re trying to develop,” he adds.
That rising tide around Clare football on the back of last year’s promotion, the influx of new players into the squad, not to mind many more being nurtured as part of the ‘Emerging Talent Squad’ and the decision of dual players like the Collins brothers and Cathal McInerney to commit to the big ball makes for a confident squad as the 2015 campaign approaches.
“There is a lot of good feeling around and we’re really looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to what’s in front us,” says the Clondegad man. “We’d like to move on another step and go to Division 2. If you’re not trying to move forward you’re going backwards so we’ll be trying to up our level of performance again and the standard of our play to try and move up to Division 2.
“There are a lot of teams that we haven’t played in quite a few years — there is a novelty to that, but the novelty is only there if you win those games. Wexford are first up, without giving the same old line it’s really all we’re looking at and we’ll see what comes after that. There are definitely a few interesting encounters and a few teams coming to Clare and we’d like to see how they fare down here in Clare,” he adds.
Of course, Clare’s two most recent games at Clare headquarters were against Kerry and Kildare — two Division 1 teams and a step up in class from what had gone before in Division 4 of the league and a gulf that provided a sharp learning curve with which to launch themselves into the jump from Division 4 to 3 football this term.
“We will take a bit of confidence, or a lot of confidence, from some aspects of the performance (against Kerry and Kildare),” says Brennan. “We will know that we can compete with the best teams for long periods of the games. It’s important to take positives from it, but it is particularly important that we take a little bit of hurt from it.
“We really felt that we could have done better in both of those games — we will be using that hurt to motivate us that bit more this year when it comes to tight games like that to try and get us over the line and try and get big wins.
“We played some good football, we were well competitive with those teams and had nothing to fear from them, so it’s trying to take that positive but at the same time trying to remember that feeling when we lost both of those games. We’ll be using that to drive us this year,” he adds.
That starts on Sunday with the visit of Wexford for the first league meeting between the sides in Clare since the 1989 campaign — the same year that Brennan born.
“Every game is a challenge, but this is a really big game,” he says. “We have played a lot of the same teams over the past few years so Wexford will be a slightly different challenge,” he says. “It’s about getting our own side in order, getting things ready and have ourselves in the best shape possible.
“It’s going to take a huge game from us to beat them, but that’s the beauty of Division 3 in that you have every team trying to beat each other. Wexford have a new management set up down there and there will obviously be a bit of freshness from that. It will be interesting, but for us it will be going out and trying to do everything we can to get the two points.”


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