Having finally tasted senior success last September, Colin Ryan is eager to sample more. However, in order to guarantee a chance at provincial success and another summer of hurling, Clare will have to edge out Cork for the second successive championship game, writes Eoin Brennan.
While it was quickly forgotten amidst the introspection of the flooring Cork defeat and the subsequent growing buzz of the All-Ireland series that reached its crescendo last September, Clare’s opening Munster championship victory over Waterford last May undoubtedly provided a considerable breakthrough moment for the more experienced members of Davy Fitzgerald’s squad.
After all, you’d have to go back to Davy’s retirement year of 2008 to find Clare’s last Munster Championship victory, with the vast majority of his squad never having experienced a Munster Championship victory at senior level.
Despite making his provincial debut in 2007, Colin Ryan was one of those, with five successive defeats behind him before last year’s triumph over the Deise. So when questioned about the incentive of a Munster medal, the Newmarket player expressed a keen interest, provided of course that Clare are still in a position to win one come Sunday evening.
“I think it’s an incentive for anybody to have a Munster Championship medal but in order to be thinking about a Munster Championship Final, we have to win a Munster Semi-Final. Obviously winning Munster would have been a goal at the start of the year but in my time, we’ve had an awful tough time in the Munster Championship. We’d been beaten in a whole pile of games and last year was the first time that we won in a long, long time so I’d be hoping that we can get over next Sunday all going well and only then will we concentrate on winning a Munster final.
“Everybody is eager to get back to championship hurling though. I suppose the league was something that we put an awful lot of effort into to make sure that we were competitive and stayed up in Division 1A. We got the bonus of getting to a league semi-final but since that finished, our eyes have been firmly on the Munster Semi-Final.”
Little did Ryan and Co. know after last year’s Munster exit to Cork that their lives would be irrevocably changed come the end of September but it’s certainly a feeling that he is eager to replicate.
“It has been great but I suppose as players, that’s an experience that we want to sample again.
“It was brilliant for so many reasons but we want to sample that again and make sure that we get to that stage again but there are so many steps on the ladder we have to get over first before we can get back to that stage so we can only deal with them as they come.
“We are not trying to retain the All-Ireland, we are trying to make sure we win it again. We are not trying to hold onto it, we’re trying to go and actually grab it again. So having gone through it last year and knowing that we have the right stuff, the right panel, the right players and backroom team behind us that got that success last year, it’s very good to know coming into this year that we have all that in the bank, knowing that we can compete at that level.
“We wanted to make sure in the league this year that we were still at that level and that we can carry it through to this year again. So there are so many things that we have brought forward from last year but in saying that we are also up there to be knocked now and everybody is going to want to do that so we have to make sure that we stay ahead of the game.”
Without a competitive game in eight weeks however in comparison to Cork who have had two championship outings in the last three weeks, Clare couldn’t have asked for a tougher start to the championship.
“If you look at all the Munster Championship games so far and they’ve all been very hard to call and any team can beat any team on any given day so we are not taking anything for granted.
“In saying that, winning next Sunday kind of sets the year up because you know you’ll be hurling into August if you win. That’s a great prize to know that you will be hurling right through the summer and hopefully we can achieve that but if not, we also know how the All-Ireland qualifiers route goes so we’ll be able to deal with that too if it comes our way.”