Former Clare manager and two-time All-Ireland-winning coach Mike McNamara has called on the players to fight to the bitter end and ignore those in the county who want them put out of their misery.
Despite having a greatly inferior score difference to their opponents on Sunday Cork, and Limerick who eased past them two days ago, Clare have more than a chance of staying in the Championship.
Of the eight possible outcomes between the two matches, Clare can make the top three in three of them. A Munster final place looks a distant reality but a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final could yet be theirs should they beat Cork and Limerick draw with or beat Tipperary.
McNamara laments the lack of leadership in the group but hopes they will fight for their lives. “I would assume the Clare public want to get out of the damn thing at this stage but I’d be one for fighting to the bitter end. I presume the lads will realise this is about saving their season or bust. The public have very short memories, calling for heads already and it’s easy to do that.
“We turned the tide in the 1990s and then 2013 turned out to be a glamour event. Expectations went through the roof and there was talk of three-in-a-row that would be alien to the genuine Clare hurling follower who would be quite happy with a good performance but we’re not getting that now.
“This group of players have nothing to prove to me. They have provided some incredible performances and given an awful lot of enjoyment for the Clare public. There’s this perception that they’re too small but they weren’t too small last year.
“Nine or 10 months ago, they were bringing us delight in Croke Park and we don’t know what has happened in the meantime. We now have a tired team that look to be mentally and physically drained for whatever reason.”
McNamara only last month came across the panel and found them to be “a good-humoured, focused bunch of kids”.
He continued: “Word from training was that things were positive so whatever has happened since, I don’t know.”
In hindsight, the win away in Waterford looked better than it was but McNamara had judged it at the time as simply “a job well done”. “The lift never came after that. We had Tipp in the (Cusack) park and for the last 25 years we’ve been saying, ‘Send them onto us’. All we wanted was them in the park and to express ourselves and get one up on them.
“We would have thought Tipp there would have ignited them and it would have ignited any other Clare team over the last 25 years. When that didn’t happen, we were convincing ourselves that they’d turn the tide in the Gaelic Grounds and after three minutes they looked as if they preferred to be somewhere else.
“They don’t seem to have much of a gameplan or a plan B and we seem to have lost the ability to lead individually. It’s all a group thing now. Guys have to stand up for themselves.”
As Waterford dropped six All-Stars for last weekend’s defeat to Cork, McNamara was startled by how Clare substituted three All-Stars in the loss to Tipperary.
“That would be unheard of and most unusual for Clare. I’d expect a few of them to throw off the shackles against Cork. It’s easy for people to judge, I’ve been in that situation when Clare turn off but we know this is a talented bunch and that doesn’t change overnight. But certainly, leadership on the field is absent completely.
“Nobody is putting their hand up, putting in the challenge and saying, ‘Come on, haven’t we had enough of this’.”