Clare hurling joint manager Gerry O’Connor has identified a trio of national league games that he thinks will prime the Banner for a tilt at the Munster championship next summer.
Clare face Cork, Wexford, and Limerick in three consecutive weekends in Division 1A of the national league, and O’Connor and Donal Moloney think this will be the best preparation for his side’s Munster championship.
Last summer, Clare’s four Munster pool games were split in two by a rest weekend, which was regarded as the perfect run, whereas Tipperary and Waterford had to play their games on four consecutive weekends, while Cork and Limerick played three games in a row.
This year, Clare have been paired with Tipperary, Limerick, and Cork over a two-week period in the provincial championship and O’Connor wants to use the national league as a dry run for that.
“In the championship, it’s our first time playing three games back-to-back in a two-week spell,” said O’Connor.
“We’re also doing the same thing in the national league, so what we are trying to achieve is to figure out the best way to focus on recovery and preparation for three games in a row.
“How do you manage that two weeks? We’ll try a few things for those games in the league with the view of replicating what works really well and we’ll improve on what didn’t work really well then in the championship.”
Losing the 2018 Munster final to Cork was a real disappointment for the Banner, but they then went on to defeat Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-final, before Galway ousted them after an epic All-Ireland semi-final that went to a replay and ended in a one-point loss.
While the joint manager admits there were stray steps taken in the season, he doesn’t think they could have done much more to get back into their first All-Ireland final since their 2013 triumph.
"Would we have looked differently at how we went out the second day against Galway and did we get a match-ups right there? You’ll always have questions like that.
"I don’t think you can look back and say we would have done something differently. Maybe you’d ask if John Conlon was right to play?
"It transpired afterwards that he had a niggly knee injury that we knew about but we didn’t realise the extent of it and the seriousness of it, but then again you can’t drop John Conlon and the way he was playing.
"And there is no point in saying we would done anything differently. He was on course to be hurler of the year coming into that game.
“If we’re honest, I think we probably got as much out of the year as we possibly could, considering where we started out.”
While Conlon continues to rehab his way back from injury, O’Connor doesn’t expect any of his front-line players will miss any league time due to injury.
“There’s one or two guys that are resting and rehabbing hip injuries and back injuries. Conor McGrath, John Conlon and a few lads like that. All they’re doing is rehabbing injuries.
"It is nothing that’s going to keep them out, but they will take some time out to work with the physios. They are attending training and working with the physios.
“Then, we’ll have Shane O’Donnell back towards the end of March.
"He’ll have done his six months in Harvard by then.”