To qualify for a first Munster Final in nine years should have unearthed a wave of newfound enthusiasm from the stands but instead it was Cork who, following wins against the head over Tipperary and Waterford, enveloped Semple Stadium in a sea of red and proceeded to take over on the field as well.

“I think last year when we qualified for the Munster Final, it was probably hard to determine that that actually happened because there wasn’t any great excitement about it and so on.’ admits Donal Moloney.

“We were looking forward to it but there didn’t seem to be any great public mood around it and I think that was probably understandable in a way because maybe Limerick were not seen as a strong team last year when we beat them. 

“And still having said that, we had our chances in the Munster Final but probably weren’t ready to beat Cork or Tipp last year but we still had our chances.”

12 months on and the mere scramble for tickets alone suggests that the Banner bandwagon will steamroll into Thurles this Sunday to more than match the Rebels, predominantly due to the sheer propulsion of their three match winning run that included two unforgettable occasions in Cusack Park.

“Beating Tipp in Thurles, beating Limerick the last day, those results even in isolation mean a lot because the competition is so fierce now. 

“When this Munster Championship started, there was perceived very little difference between any of the five teams and on any given day, anyone could beat each other so to win even one game at this level is a huge plus. 

“Beating Waterford in the Park, I know from a public perspective it was probably packaged away as Waterford getting a few injuries and stuff like that, but for us it was absolutely huge. 

“Beating Tipp in Thurles, we stated openly that we needed to win in Thurles and people were saying no, the result on the last day against Limerick would do us. But we said no bloody way, we have to go to Thurles and try and win and we were fortunate enough to do so, so I think each game in isolation has been immeasurable for us.”

With Clare’s progression this year, therefore it goes without saying that the Scariff native is a fan of the new championship format despite the challenges it has posed to their entire set-up over a relentlessly intense five week period.

“I think it has been good because there is no hiding place and there is no such thing as going away feeling sorry for yourself after a loss, it has really taking everyone out of their comfort zone. 

“I mean the evening we lost to Cork, two hours later we were in a hotel room doing in-depth analysis and switching gears to focus on Waterford. And the players appreciated that so by the time we were back in Clare on the bus that night, it was all systems go for Waterford and that is the great thing about this new format.

“It does put pressure on players and the backroom teams because every team you play is totally different, every Munster team has a very, very different style so you’re trying to adapt to a whole different style and you’ve only seven days in which to do so. Even shorter in fact as realistically you don’t even have seven days, you really have to have it cracked within three days. And that’s tough going especially if you have really built yourself up and poured everything into a game on Sunday and now you’ve got to go again.

“Beating Tipp in Thurles, we stated openly that we needed to win in Thurles and people were saying no, the result on the last day against Limerick would do us. But we said no bloody way, we have to go to Thurles and try and win and we were fortunate enough to do so, so I think each game in isolation has been immeasurable for us.”

“And that’s why our backroom team, both in strength-and-conditioning and the analysts have been absolutely superb because the work they did between the Cork and Waterford games was immense and then everyone left Thurles very happy but these guys were hard at work immediately to try and get everything right for the crunch game of the season against Limerick.”

This year’s restructure also provided Clare the unique opportunity to regain their flow as momentum gained from each passing victory has bolstered the spirit and confidence within the camp to where they now find themselves back on Munster Final day this Sunday.

“I think overall, every game is nearly 80 minutes these days so that’s 320 minutes of hurling. And sometimes in knock-out competition, you can come up with a big performance on a day and that will get you through from round to round where you can build yourself up to do it again whereas you need consistency in your play in this competition or otherwise you’re exposed. 

“And I think that’s something we’ve achieved this year to date that to extent that even when people were maybe giving out that we lost to Cork, name me a county in Ireland that’s going to fancy themselves going into Pairc Uí Chaoimh and beating Cork especially in the first game when they are Munster champions. 

“So we performed quite well, we were disappointed with the margin and a couple of things in the final quarter but by and large in terms of the core aspects of our game, we did a lot of things right.

“And people also made a lot of our first 20 minutes against Tipp as well but I really admire the lads because Tipperary were throwing the kitchen sink at us and with the prowess and capability that they have in full flow, you’ve got to batten down the hatches and hang in there and that’s exactly what they did. Just see it out and keep trying to make the right decisions so from that perspective, we’re really happy with how the team has matured this year.”

Having been immersed in a championship bubble these past six weeks, the Clare camp haven’t even contemplated the prospect of garnering a first Munster senior crown in 20 years.

“It’s funny, you mention silverware but we’ve never even spoken this year about a trophy or anything like that to be honest. With the structure of the competition, you just can’t even think about that because it’s all about the next game and the next game. 

“So we haven’t even thought about this as a Munster Final to be honest, for us it’s just another round against Cork and who can perform the best and who can get on top this time.

“In Pairc Uí Chaoimh in the first round, there was very little in that game. We created a lot of goalscoring chances and maybe we could have taken points and come away with a better return but overall, I don’t think that there’s a lot between the teams and I don’t think it will be any different next Sunday either.

“Credit Cork, they weren’t anyones favourites last year and they came storming through and possibly would have ended up in the All-ireland final were it not for a sending off in the All-Ireland Semi last year. So they are a really capable team and from our perspective it’s been really about how can we maximise our strengths and get better and I think the lads are trying to do that on a continuous basis with each performance. But Cork will be a good test.”

A provincial test that Clare haven’t managed to pass since beating the Rebels in the Munster Semi-Final of 1998. But Moloney is quick to dismiss any uttering of Cork as a bogey side for the Banner.

“I wouldn’t say bogey side, they’ve been better than Clare, that’s the harsh reality. So I wouldn’t say they’re a bogey team, it’s not as if we’ve been unlucky or anything like that, Cork have been better, that’s the reality and you just have to deal with that and try to close that gap.

“And we’re really looking forward to Sunday, it will be a great battle as both teams play great hurling and both have a lot of respect for each other so it will really be a fantastic tussle in Thurles.”

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