A must-win encounter for Clare footballers ahead of League break

Clare’s Keelan Sexton and Cork’s Tomas Clancy in action in the 2017 league meeting between the sides in Cusack Park.

WHEN Sunday comes and goes there’ll still be four games left to play in the 2018 National Football League — that’s eight points left to play for, eight points to make a push for promotion, or eight points to from which to safeguard Division 2 status.

Of course Clare want the former and not the latter, but to do that that makes this Sunday’s game a must win encounter. Lose and they’re in relegation country, win and they’ll go into the two-week break on a high and buttressed for the big challenges coming down the tracks when they’re away to Kildare and at home to bogey team Meath.

Against that backdrop this could be the most important game of Clare’s campaign, one that do date hasn’t set the world on fire, a fact which must provoke a big response as the team seek to catch fire for once and for all.

They’ve been cold enough to date, with only the brilliance of twin towers Gary Brennan and David Tubridy lifting them above the ordinary — against Donegal when they did more than any others to carry the fight, the last day against Armagh when Tubridy’s heroics pulled a draw from certain defeat.

Now Clare badly need a win, something that they’ll be favourites to achieve when playing host to the Rebels on Sunday, but you’d have to say they’re very tentative favourites given the inconsistency of their two performances to date.

Clare have only played in patches — either side of half-time against Donegal, before half-time against Armagh and then the Lazarus act courtesy of David Tubridy at the death. These fits and starts haven’t been good enough to win so far this term, and won’t be on Sunday when a Cork team that finds itself in the exact same position as Clare comes to town.

After drawing with Fermanagh in Enniskillen they were beaten by 1-10 to 0-10 on Sunday against Armagh, so much so that the Rebels’ will be seen to be in freefall if they crash to a second successive defeat.

That’s sure to provoke a response in them, particularly when they’re coming into the game on the back of having lost to Clare in the last two years and in the recent McGrath Cup final as well. However, the McGrath Cup result will have no bearing on this game, with the Rebels having a much stronger look about them.

Clare will be without Cathal O’Connor who received a straight red against Armagh, the same fate that Brian Hurley received against Kildare. O’Connor’s absence could mean a start for Darragh Bohannon at midfield.

For Clare to win they need the forwards to step up in a big way, because David Tubridy can’t do it alone. Maybe third time charm will strike for the home side.

Verdict: Clare

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