January being the month of experimentation, Conor Cleary finds himself in the unfamiliar environs of the Clare full-back line.
Cleary’s positioning at full-back for Clare’s opening two Munster SHL games, though, has more than a feel of experimentation about it.
With Cian Dillon having stepped away from the panel — he being first-choice full-back during last year’s league — and 2017 championship full-back David McInerney now operating further out the field, management are obviously keen for Cleary to make the number three shirt his own.
Having spent last summer at centre-back for the Banner and, indeed, all of his underage years in the saffron and blue, how is the Miltown man finding the switch?
“I’m enjoying it. It’s certainly a lot different to the half-back line. In full-back, there is a lot more space in front of you,” Cleary says.
“In fairness to the half-back line against Cork, they tracked back and closed that space quickly. I have never played full-back before so there is a lot of learning to do. I learned a few things [against Cork]. Hopefully, I get a run there the next day and I’ll be learning again.”
Although the Banner management fielded a relatively experienced outfit against Cork, there were run-outs for Ryan Taylor, Ian Galvin, Niall Deasy, Billy Connors, and Mickey O’Neill, players looking to push themselves further up the pecking order.
All five were on the mark during the 11-point win, with Galvin (0-3) and Deasy (1-2), liveliest.
“This year, more than other years at this time of the year, we have a lot of our panel healthy,” Cleary continues.
“Competition is serious. There are a lot of lads who didn’t get a run against Cork who are really performing well in training.”
Whether or not management opt to reshuffle the deck for Sunday’s Munster SHL decider away to Limerick, expect there to be no change on the edge of the Clare square.
“It’s going to be a big game. Limerick have a lot of work done and we know from their U21s in the last few years they have serious talent coming up. It’s a derby so they are always fiery games.
“I know people were talking about the Munster SHL at the start of the year, and getting rid of it. But if we weren’t playing games, we would probably be training and it would be hard training. You just want to be playing games.”
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