Clare selector Ger Keane is hopeful that Clare will find their feet in Division 3 and have a cut at mounting a promotion charge. Eoin Brennan reports.
Every day is a school day for Ger Keane it seems. History and English are his teaching subjects in St Caimin’s in Shannon but as regards his role as Clare senior football selector, he has also learned some valuable lessons in the past few seasons.
In 2013, the maestro himself Mick O’Dwyer may have been a short term appointment but certainly imparted a few nuggets of coaching gold on the Kilkee native while under his successor Colm Collins, Keane was part of Clare’s first promotion in two decades when finally vanquishing the basement of Division 4 football.
A new semester also brings with it a more advanced curriculum complete with a new classroom, something that Keane and Co. are eager to embrace, starting this weekend.
“It’s great to be looking forward to Division 3 and games like Wexford and Louth in the first two games. It’s a long time since Clare played these teams in league fixtures so it’s great for players, supporters and management alike to be having a cut at these teams.
“I suppose even from the players point of view, being in Division 4 for the last eight of nine years there, they knew the players they were coming up against more like club teams than county teams. So now there’s a huge variety factor in terms of who we are going to be playing against this year, different teams, different venues and different tactical selections as well so that’s the challenge for all of us now and it’s an exciting time to be involved.”
Amidst such new surroundings, there’s also a further injection of youth as the squad continues to develop ahead of their seven games in ten weeks’ National League campaign.
“There is a great core of lads that had soldiered for the last eight or nine years and we had a big transition in the last two or three years so we’re still looking for new players and recruiting new lads to strengthen the panel. We are keeping a close eye on the Under 21’s as well and there are some good lads involved in that so they had a good win in the Hastings Cup against Offaly so we’re definitely a work in progress but the key for us is to try and keep improving this year.”
Following last year’s league duel with Tipperary in Semple Stadium, Premier County manager Peter Creedon predicted both promotion for his native Tipperary and Clare as well as their ability to maintain their rapid rise up the divisions. Keane doesn’t rule out the possibility of back-to-back promotions but is more cautious in his short-term aspirations.
“I suppose in the back of our heads, that’s probably the ultimate goal but we’re completely focused to be honest on Wexford and we know how difficult that’s going to be. They’re seen as seasoned campaigners because up to a couple of years ago, they we getting to Leinster finals and competing in Division 2 of the league.
“So at the end of the day, we’ll be still trying to find our feet for a while but at the same time, we’ll be hoping to hit the ground running in Miltown next Sunday.
“The players have worked very hard and we just hoping really to get a performance. I suppose results will take care of themselves so we’re just trying to get the best out of ourselves starting next Sunday.
“With Cusack Park not available at the moment, we’re back in West Clare where there’s always a good following so hopefully the players will be able to respond to that.
“Sometimes you can get inhibited playing in front of your own home crowd so we’ll be hoping that the crowd will get behind them and that the players will give them something to shout about.”