July 19, 2014. Strange as it may seem, that was the last time that Clare beat any of the ten current contenders in an All-Ireland Championship match when seeing off Tipperary by 0-19 to 0-09 in Sixmilebridge on their way to the quarter-finals.
The reasons why? Well, the anomalous high turnover of players is certainly the main factor, with only six Clare survivors from the 20 that lined out that day still in the squad almost three years on whereas in contrast Tipperary are currently only missing six from their 20 panelists used.
One of those still flying the flag is captain Orlaith Duggan who far from dwelling on or lamenting the losses, is instead proudly leading Clare’s youngest ever squad into championship fare. And despite being only 23 herself, the Clooney-Quin star isn’t deterred by Clare’s record of only one championship win (against Intermediate side Derry in 2015) in their last 11 outings.
“We just haven’t gotten the championship wins in the last few years but at the same time, I don’t think the results have reflected our efforts or capabilities. Last year we were the bottom team, we didn’t win any championship game but we wouldn’t have felt coming away from the championship that we were the bottom team.
“So there is a confidence there and although we haven’t been showing it in terms of results, we still wouldn’t be afraid of playing any other team. That obviously hasn’t transpired into winning games but definitely it’s fair to say that we have had a so-called transition period bringing in so many young players. And sometimes people throw that out as a bit of an excuse but it probably is time now that we push on a little bit.
“But we can’t look beyond the Dublin game. It’s definitely one that we can win so hopefully if we get that, we might get on a run because we haven’t had that winning momentum in a long while now.
“Because it’s something that we haven’t felt in a long while, it would be a big boost to win a championship game and especially our first one which will be away. The away games are always the huge ones to be winning and if we can do that, it would bring a lot of confidence coming into a home game against Waterford the following week.
“Things are quite positive in the squad and we have done well in recent challenges matches but you do have to follow through with competitive wins. So if we could get a win this Saturday, I think things would roll on nicely after that.”
Her optimism is based on an exciting new crop of talent emerging rapidly through the ranks of the squad that between last year and the upcoming campaign, she feels are ready to make a real impact at the highest level.
“Last year in hindsight was just that little bit too soon for that many young players to come into one team and losing Chloe [Morey] and Maire [McGrath] to injury was huge. However, it is a big confidence boost to have a year of senior championship camogie underneath your belt as it’s a huge step up from minor and I think sometimes people probably don’t realise that.
“So it’s great that they have that experience behind them now and in addition, this year’s minor squad will have taken huge confidence from their run to the All-Ireland final. They have really boosted the squad and they brought a real positive energy when they came back into training with us so things have come together nicely now in fairness.”
A more pressing concern to the captain however is her own fitness approaching what is a pivotal opening game against Dublin this Saturday as a persistent Achilles tendonitis injury has limited her involvement over the past two months.
“It’s definitely one of the more frustrating injuries that I’ve ever had. I missed the end of the league and then the Munster campaign and it’s a strange one really as I didn’t feel it at first but during the league it started to give me trouble and it just got worse and worse.
“I rested it for six or seven weeks and it felt okay so I came back training but unfortunately it has flared up again. It’s just one of those things that’s kind of out of your hands and it’s just frustrating because you just don’t know how long you are going to have to rest it for. But I’m hoping that I’ll be okay to play at the weekend so I’m doing minimal participation until then and just trying to keep fit in some way but fingers crossed I’ll be able to play on Saturday.
“Given that the experienced players in the squad might be limited in terms of numbers, it is important that the older players would be driving things on a bit. On a personal level, I hate being on the sideline watching things so being involved in any way on Saturday would be a boost for myself.
“That’s provided I’m picked of course as it’s an awful cliche but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to get a place on the team at the moment especially when you haven’t training much in the last few weeks. But hopefully I can play some part.”
Clare’s All-Ireland Championship record since beating Tipperary in the final group game of 2014
Quarter-Final – Galway 2-10 Clare 0-14 @ Gaelic Grounds, Limerick (Saturday, August 9)
Round 1 – Clare a bye (Saturday, June 20)
Round 2 – Kilkenny 2-22 Clare 0-06 @ St Lachtain’s, Freshford (Saturday, June 27)
Round 3 – Clare 1-8 Dublin 1-8 @ Fr. Murphy Memorial Park, Newmarket-on-Fergus (Saturday, July 11)
Round 4 – Tipperary 2-18 Clare 0-11 @ The Ragg (Saturday, July 18)
Round 5 – Clare 4-19 Derry 1-06 @ Cusack Park, Ennis (Sunday, July 26)
Quarter-Final Play-Off – Dublin 1-11 Clare 0-12 @ Semple Stadium, Thurles (Saturday, August 1)
Round 1 – Offaly 1-16 Clare 1-11 @ O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge (Saturday, June 18)
Round 2 – Cork 5-19 Clare 0-10 @ Pairc Uí Rinn (Saturday, June 25)
Round 3 – Limerick 1-13 Clare 0-09 @ Cusack Park, Ennis (Saturday, July 2)
Round 4 – Waterford 1-08 Clare 0-10 @ Walsh Park, Waterford (Saturday, July 9)
Round 5 – Wexford 7-12 Clare 1-05 @ Pairc Finne, Corofin (Saturday, July 16)