Former Clare manager Michéal McDermott says that Clare have nothing to fear in Division 3, something he says can steel them to be in the shake-up for back-to-back league promotions, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.

MICHÉAL McDermott knows more than most about the trials and tribulations of the great hunt for promotion that is life in the lower echelons of the National Football League.
During his three-year stint as manager between 2010 and ’12 McDermott brought his Clare side right to the edge of promotion — when it was a matter of inches that cost the Banner County on a couple of occasions.
In 2010 when the width of a post came between David Tubridy and the equalising point against Limerick in Cusack Park that would have been enough to get Clare over the line; two years later when that ball was inches from going over the line in Aughrim for a promotion sealing goal only for Wicklow to sweep away the danger.
Might have beens for McDermott and his tenure, but three years on from time with Clare the Cavan man is convinced that the long cherished promotion that was achieved last year can now be a big springboard going forward.

“My own belief is that there’s very difference between Division 4 and Division 3 bar one or two teams,” he says. “It’s when you step up to the top four in Division 2 and then Division 1, that’s where the gap in class really shines through.

“I’m sure they’ll have a big focus on the league this year,” says McDermott. “They put huge energy and resources into it last year and they were rewarded at the. This year will be no different, especially when you look at the teams in Division 3.
“Yes on paper Armagh will be the standout team, but Clare have them at home. Look at the other six teams in the division — Clare are well capable of beating any of those. Clare have four games at home and three away and I can see no reason why Clare can’t make another big push.
“Look at Tipperary and Limerick — they’re two of the away games but there’s never more than a kick of a ball between Clare and them. Whoever performs on the day will come out of those games.
“People talk of Tipperary a lot and their run in the Qualifiers last year, but Clare probably should have beaten them in the Division 4 final, while Clare’s performances against Kerry and Kildare in championship were just as impressive as anything Tipperary did,” he adds.
McDermott thinks that Clare will relish the challenge of taking on new teams — an enthusiasm that can fire them over the course of the seven-match campaign and give them a huge chance of securing back-to-back promotions as teams like Tipperary and Antrim did in recent years.
“My own belief is that there’s very difference between Division 4 and Division 3 bar one or two teams,” he says. “It’s when you step up to the top four in Division 2 and then Division 1, that’s where the gap in class really shines through.
“What has happened over the last few years is of the teams that have been promoted from Division 4 at least one of them has followed it up with promotion to Division 2. Clare have a great chance of being that team this year.
“You’re going into a territory where there won’t be familiarity. Gone are the days when Clare have been playing Leitrim, London, Carlow and teams like that. You get fed up of the same games each year, so now Clare are playing new teams and have a bigger challenge. The fact that they’re playing teams they haven’t played before is going to bring them on.
“It’s always important to have that first game at home. Wexford’s preparations coming into this game haven’t been smooth. I know they’ve played games in the O’Byrne Cup and Clare didn’t play in the McGrath Cup, but they’ve lost Daithí Waters from their midfield.
“Taking Waters out of the mix that really releases Gary Brennan to dominate around there. Having them at home is a big plus and I think it’s a must win game if they’re going to push for promotion. I think they can win that game.”

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