Carlow v Clare
@ Dr Cullen Park, Carlow
AHEAD of the Munster quarter-final replay against Waterford the Clare manager Colm Collins spoke of the reality facing Clare – the two different roads they could go.
Lose and it was a Qualifier game against Carlow (even though they had yet to play Meath in Leinster); win and it was a home tie against Kerry in Cusack Park and a chance to take them down.
It was a tale of two different football worlds really – Kerry were top drawer, Carlow were the basement, with Clare’s aspirations of competing with Kerry more than justified by the comprehensive win over the Deise and then strong showing in the Munster semi-final against the Kingdom.
It all means that the Carlow draw now seems like manna from football heaven and a golden opportunity to play more championship football than any other Clare football team in 97 long years.
Yes, it’s that long since Clare played five championship matches in one year, so this weekend’s test gives the current generation a shot at history as well as making round three of the Qualifiers.
Yes they will be firm favourites on the back of league promotion, their huge win over Carlow en route, that performance against Kerry and by virtue of the fact that the Barrowsiders’ best footballer won’t be on duty for them.
Brendan Murphy isn’t playing for Carlow for whatever reason, something Clare can be grateful for. The last time Carlow came close to beating Clare was two years ago in Dr Cullen Park, when the midfielder was in imperious form.
Indeed, Clare’s late win courtesy of a Michael O’Shea goal and Alan Clohessy point had a touch of grand larceny about it. Taking Murphy out of the team is like Clare being without the services of Gary Brennan – he’s that good.
It all means opportunity knocks for Clare, provided they hit this game with the same pitch as they did against Kerry.
They know Carlow will be buoyed by the fact that they were able to bounce from the humiliation they endured against Meath when they shipped seven goals.
After that the expectation was that they wouldn’t have the belly for any more battle this year, but a grandstand finish helped them to a last-gasp 0-17 to 1-13 win over Waterford.
They’ll believe they can do it again, but it won’t happen. Clare will prevail and go into the bowl for the next round of the Qualifiers on Monday morning.