For Clare manager Donal Moloney it’s not about a four-in-a-row in Munster — it’s about Clare 2015 Under 21 vintage carving a unique place for themselves in the annals of the game in the province. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.

FOUR-IN-A-ROW.
Bah humbug to that talk Dónal Moloney might well say, because over his time involved with the Clare Under 21s, back-to-back titles, whether it’s two, three or now four on the bounce has never been part of his dressing room.
He just doesn’t go there, because of the way he sees things. Every season being a blank page and a stand alone thing, for the always ever-changing and evolving groups of players.
That’s why when the four-in-a-row talk rent the air in the wake of the stunning Munster semi-final victory over Waterford, it just seemed to go over Moloney’s head. He has never played that numbers game.
And it’s not because it might be a millstone on Clare’s back as the county prepares for a fourth successive Munster final, but because of the above — that blank page; that stand alone year.
“It’s the way it has to be and this year more than ever, because there’s such a break with the group of the last three years,” says the Scariff man. “The last three years there was some cohort that backboned the team — that’s all gone. This is a whole new bunch of guys, some of them weren’t even with us last year and were playing minor for Clare.
“It’s about them carving their own identity. There is a lot less of them with the seniors as well, so it’s a very different environment and very different context to the previous years.
“We would never reference it,” he says of that four-in-a-row talk, “expect to reinforce the point that this is their own unique achievement. They’ve done step one (beat Waterford), and they now have a formidable task ahead of them to do step two. As a group of players and leaders this is their own unique achievement,” he adds.
Unique to win a Munster title; more unique still if it happens to be the fourth successive Under 21 title to come to Clare.
A success that many in the county wouldn’t have seen coming — those outside Dónal Moloney and the lair of his backroom team and players that is. All because, as Moloney admits, everyone involved aspired to success from day one.
“We’d always be optimistic — you’d have to be,” he says. “When we did the trials back in November we could some of the players coming through from minor that they were very very talented, great potential and that was very encouraging. They weren’t coming in to make up numbers. That really helped us set out our stall. We had a good few of last year’s panel, but there was serious competition coming in in terms of new lads, so that created its own dynamic. They’ve essentially gone from there and they have worked incredibly hard and we could ask very little more of them from what they have done to date this year.

“It’s the way it has to be and this year more than ever, because there’s such a break with the group of the last three years,” says the Scariff man. “The last three years there was some cohort that backboned the team — that’s all gone. This is a whole new bunch of guys, some of them weren’t even with us last year and were playing minor for Clare.

“This was about first day out taking on Waterford. A formidable outfit with a lot of marquee players. That was motivation in itself. The mindset was very positive. We broke it down a bit and tried to rationalise it for the lads in terms of the challenge.
“It was still a very manageable challenge. When you how they won against Cork and why they won against Cork — when you analyse that there was loads of opportunity we felt. The players bought into that and took it on even better than we expected on the night,” he adds.
Now for more of the same against a Limerick side that will be cock-a-hoop after their own underdog victory over Tipperary.
“The reality is they had to put themselves into the zone to beat Waterford and had to expend huge energy in terms of mental and physical preparation, both before and during that game,” says Moloney.
“Definitely there’s going to be a down period after an effort of that magnitude. There has to be. Now it’s a case of building that back up again to take on a formidable challenge.
“We need to focus; we need to focus on what’s important to us and what we do well. We need to anticipate the massive challenge that Limerick will bring. But in every facet of the game we have to try to be better than them. That’s going to be our focus.”

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