Big enough to expect a win, small enough to fear a defeat — that’s the position Clare are in travelling to Carrick-on-Shannon this evening. After three consecutive years in Division 2, and coming off a not-so demoralising defeat to Kerry, Colm Collins’ team should travel north with optimism, but then there are grounds to be wary.
“We’ve never been able to take anything for granted, because we weren’t that good,” says former goalkeeper Joe Hayes. “Even though the lads are muscling away up in Division 2, they’re a fairly level-headed bunch of lads, that will treat this game the exact same way they treated Kerry three weeks ago.
“They should be going up focused and confident, with their chests sticking out, and that’s not cocky or taking anything for granted, but just doing things right. It will be a tricky assignment: Leitrim got promoted and are a Division 3 team now and are a hard team to beat in Carrick-on-Shannon. Many a year, we struggled against them, there in Division 4, to get a point.
“They’ve a new manager, too (Terry Hyland), so there’s a bit of drive behind the whole thing. It’s knockout, which adds a new dimension, but I’d hope the lads would have enough to get the job done. I know there was a scare in the first round, against Waterford, but I don’t see a similar scare this weekend.”
Like two years ago, Clare could hold their heads high after losing by six points to Kerry, in Ennis, and Hayes was encouraged by how they tore into the second-half, albeit too late.
“In the second-half — and it was said to me that Kerry took their foot off the pedal, but they didn’t — Clare just went for it. Tubs (David Tubridy) hit a few nice points and Gary (Brennan) had an outstanding game. Clare needed a goal and there were a few high balls that Shane Ryan dealt with very well, but had one of them broke and a goal been scored, anything could have happened.”
In their 13th and 12th senior seasons, respectively, Brennan and Tubridy continue to pick up the majority of the plaudits, but Hayes is certain there is enough talent coming through to complement those stalwarts.
“The minors have performed well this year, last year, and 2017. That’s three years of good teams. You will, hopefully, start seeing one or two of them coming into the panel; maybe even the team next year.
“You’ve Cormac Murray and Gavin Cooney now and Gavin started last year, but both now have championship games under their belts. Cillian Brennan has another year at full-back and Stephen Ryan, who was the minor goalie three years ago, is the number one goalie now.
“Tubs and Gary will always be the names mentioned, because they have been performing so well the last number of years, but there definitely is a couple of lads coming.
“Shane Meehan, who was full-forward for the minors this year and last year, is a prospect. I know he is on the hurling panel, as well, and they’re into a Munster final now, but we might see him in the next year or two.
“There are enough players coming through to keep things ticking over and to blend in with the lads who are there in their late 20s, early 30s.”