IT’S safe to say that the club football year ahead in Clare is a huge one.
It’s all to do with the major structural overhaul of the game’s blue riband in the county — the senior championship that is the annual race for the Jack Daly Cup.
With five teams to be relegated from the senior championship in 2018 it will be a scrap to end all scraps where survival among the elite of the game in Clare is concerned.
Of course, the change doesn’t end there, because with the inter-county calendar undergoing its own radical overhaul with the introduction of the Super Eights in football and the round robin to the Munster Championship in hurling there’s that added headache for clubs of availability of players and a narrowing of the playing season.
It all adds up to challenging times for the clubs in a season that will be largely split in two — you have the county leagues from the Cusack Cup all the way down the divisions that commence this coming weekend, while the real business of championship has been pushed all the way out to August.
It will be interesting to see how clubs approach the season ahead. Among the top teams at senior level, will it be just a matter of keeping things ticking over during the league, fulfilling fixtures and paring back training schedules before ramping things up come the summer in readiness for the August start?
Or, will clubs make a big burst in the coming two months — in terms of training and appetite for games, before taking a break and then bringing things to the boil once more ahead of the championship start?
There will probably be a mixture of both to be found among teams. For instance, the kingpins of the senior game Kilmurry Ibrickane won’t be going hard at it for the duration, because with plenty of miles on the clock, for them it’s about being at their best in September and October, not March and April.
Teams like Cratloe and Clondegad are in the same boat, but for a different reason — they won’t be flying it in the early stages simply because they won’t have access to all their players because of county commitments.
But for others, teams trying to make the breakthrough and look to have the pedigree to do so — teams like Cooraclare, St Breckan’s, Ennistymon and Éire Óg — it will be important to show well in the league and train hard for it, as confidence boosters for the championship ahead as much as anything else. The Clare People Health Check of football clubs in the county shows where all clubs stand as they head into the battles that lie ahead.
Check out this week’s CLARE PEOPLE that includes a comprehensive 7 page preview of the adult football leagues; a further 7 page Club Health Check on every football club in Clare & U21 Hurling Championship previews