Colm Collins is bullish about Clare’s chances against Cork, because it’s not about putting it up to football’s leading lights anymore — it’s about beating them he tells sports editor Joe Ó Muircheartaigh as he looks ahead to Sunday’s showdown with the Rebels in Páirc Uí Rinn.
It’s all about a 70-minute display
TO see how far Clare football has travelled in the past few years, just cut to the Cusack Park pitch after the county’s last two championship games there.
The Kerry and Kildare games of last year.
Kerry first. The Kingdom’s supremo Eamonn Fitzmaurice might have been talking about the victory in terms of the Kerry machine ridding itself of some dirty petrol, but a few feet away Clare manager Colm Collins was talking missed opportunity.
How right he was. It was a huge opportunity lost. They led at half-time, but just couldn’t push on. Ditto against Kildare. The common denominator between both games wasn’t just defeat, but Clare’s devastation — that realisation of what had just passed them by.
The moral of both stories was that for Clare football it wasn’t about putting it up to the bigger guns anymore — it’s about beating them. And it’s this mindset that has wrapped itself around team and management, one that will be travelling with them to Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday.
“As regards the development of the team I think it’s very important that we start putting it up to and beating the big teams teams,” says Collins. “It’s all very well to be saying you ran Kerry to four points and Kildare only beat you by a point, but that doesn’t wash anymore.
“The criticism for both of those games (against Kerry and Kildare) was that in the last 15 or 20 minutes that we didn’t drive on and that when the opposition got the run on us, got the scores and we didn’t respond. You’ve got to go all the way and win these games — it’s just not good enough anymore to be close to them,” he adds.
That’s a big change in outlook, particularly so when it comes against the backdrop of a history that weighed heavily against Collins and his team — the reality that Clare have only beaten Cork five times in the last 100 years and never in Cork.
But the belief is still there — unmoved and uninhibited by that history which has seen the Rebels reign supreme in all 13 championship ties between the sides that have been played in the Munster Republic since 1930.
“While we’d be very respectful of Cork, we’re not going down there for the fun,” declares Collins. “We’re going down there because we want to get to the Munster final. The massive pick they have down there — something ridiculous in the amount of clubs they pick from. It means that any of the top 15 of those are going to be excellent players.
“But at the end of the day it’s 15 against 15 and it’s the team that wants it the most, that will work the most, that will be the most honest, that won’t give the ball away and that will stick to the gameplan and that will put away the chances when they get them. That’s the team that’s going to win.”
For Collins it has always been about what his teams bring to any occasion — be it at club level with his Cratloe side that has mixed it with the best in the province over the past two years and now with his Clare team that has made massive strides over the same period.
Now, vis-à-vis Clare’s recent history against Cork, he knows that further progression is a must as they bid to bridge the gulf that has been between the sides in recent years — a nine-point gap was there in their last meeting in 2013, but it was 12 and 15 points in the 2012 and ’11 respectively.
“At this level there’s no option only a 70-minute performance on Sunday,” he says. “If you’re going to show up for 50 minutes you’re going to lose the match. It’s as simple as that. It’s a given. “You’ve got to give a 70-minute performance, give everything that you have and that’s what we’ll be looking for.
“It’s all about tidying up the little things from the last day. We could have had a really super performance against Limerick if we tidied up in a couple of areas. The concentration since then has been trying to get those things right.
“Those chances that we missed against Limerick,” he continues. “I mean there are two types of wides — one is that you shouldn’t have taken on the shot, but against Limerick these were all clear-cut chances where we should take on the shot and just didn’t nail them.
“Hopefully we’ll be getting that full 70-minute performance and we’ll keep the scoreboard ticking over and we’ll get the honesty that’s in the squad out on the pitch and that everyone will give their all on the day.”
And with that, who knows, it could be third time charm for this Clare team against one of football’s heavy hitters.