The buzz of the championship

THE hurlers went to Portugal for their special training camp ahead of championship, while the footballers went to Louth.
But, get into the minds of the football fraternity and they’ll tell you it’s not about location – instead it’s just about the work being done, with the reports coming back that Louth was every bit as intense as Portugal as Colm Collins’ charges ramped up their preparations for this evening’s championship opener.
“It went very well,” says Collins, after a weekend that had the prologue of a challenge game against Cavan en route and was then bookended by another challenge game against Galway in Cusack Park.
“The players have had to play away with their clubs,” says Collins, “but getting them away was important as we focus on this game. Once the league was over that was it – the job was done and straight away we were on to championship and this game against Waterford.
“It was great to get up and all that. It would have been nice to win it, but it wasn’t the end of the world. The most important thing was that we were promoted. We played really well on the day and were on the wrong side of a one-point game but it’s history now and the next hurdle is championship.
“It’s no different from where we started from in the league. We always talked about improvement – that was the main thing we talked about all the time and I would like to think that we were a better team in Croke Park than we were in the first day of the league.
“To that end we’re just continuing along that curve. We’re hopefully going to be a better team again against Waterford – that’s the way we look at it,” he adds.
Collins knows that Clare will be favourites – the eight-point victory in Dungarvan on the opening day of the league and subsequent run to promotion, allied to Waterford’s poor campaign means that everything points to a home win.
“We’re not looking at anything past Saturday’s game,” says Collins scotching any notions about this being an easy opener. “As far as we’re concerned it’s very, very important that you focus totally on the game in hand and that you never take your eye off the ball and never think of anything else only your immediate opponent.
“I think that Waterford are a very good side in the sense that traditionally there has been nothing between us – our last four meeting was two wins for each. They have really excellent players and we have to treat this game the very same as if we were playing Dublin or any other team.
“We prepare for it meticulously and be ready for everything and then hopefully go out and win the match if we can. I expect nothing other than a really strong challenge from Waterford.
“When we beat them in the league it was an important game for us – important for morale and to get things going, but at the end of the day if we got beaten in Dungarvan we were still in it.
“It was crucial for us because we wanted to get a bit of momentum going and we wanted to start on a positive note and that’s what happened. We had a good win in Waterford and it set us up for the rest of the league,” he adds.
Now to do the same in championship, on that back of what is expected to be the best prepared Clare side to take the field at championship level. All because, according to Collins, playing county football is now “almost a full-time thing and these fellas are professional athletes in every sense of the word except that they don’t get paid”.
There’s the two nights in the gym, the two field sessions and a game at the weekend, not forgetting a couple of recovery sessions during the week – all of which will be brought to Cusack Park this Saturday.
“It’s full-time – that’s what it has to be,” says Collins, “and with the work we’ve done, we hope that the improvement we’re looking for every day is there. There is a great buzz about championship and we’re really looking forward to it.
“The great Mick O’Dwyer used to famously say that there’s only one competition and that’s championship – you can say all you like about the league and it was very important, but there is a great buzz about championship when it starts.
“It would be great if we could get a good run at it. It would mean a massive amount to us if we could get off to a win.”

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