Yet within the environs of the Banner squad, a McGrath Cup title would represent significant progress as they try to escape from the basement level of inter-county football.
“No matter which way you look at it, it’s still a final and there’s silverware at stake,” reasoned Clare manager Micheal McDermott.
“Clare football has not had too many opportunities like that in recent years. If you’ve any ambition as a Clare footballer, you want to be tested against the best and that’s what we’ll be doing this afternoon against Kerry. It’s a big ask but it’s a game our lads are looking forward to and will enjoy.”
Clare are without Gary Brennan and new face David O’Connor, who netted a goal in last Sunday’s semi-final, for the tie through injury. But their panel has been bolstered this year and they are better equipped to withstand such losses. The additions of Kildare pair Adrian Cahill and Niall Browne, and Dublin native O’Connor under the parent rule have been augmented by the return of other players.
“I think we’re in good shape now with the players we have,” says McDermott. “There’s been a good bit of talk about the three new lads we got under the parentage rule in David, Niall and Adrian. They’re three very committed guys who are anxious to do well for Clare football. But we also have Timmy Ryan, Rory Donnelly and John Hayes back with us. Ger Fanning is doing very well and Graham Kelly is nailing down a spot in defence. We’ve two young guys in Cathal O’Connor who’s 22 and Conor Ryan who’s 19, and they’re both getting their opportunities as well.”
The pre-season has served Clare well, providing a series of rigorous tests. Cork third-level teams UCC and CIT were accounted for at home and on Sunday Clare were on the road to face Waterford in the last four.
“It’s been a big plus for us getting games like that,” says McDermott. “Time will tell when we get to the league how helpful those games were. Our first game against Leitrim on Sunday week is a huge match. But we’ll be entering it after plenty of competitive ties and that’s what we wanted.
“The college teams from Cork were good tests as they’re gearing up for the Sigerson and then Sunday was a step up as we were facing an inter-county team. It was good to see how the lads would react and they did positively. We asked them to show honesty effort; they came back in good condition.”
KERRY v Clare: T Mac a tSaoir; P Reidy, M Ó Sé, P O’Connor; A O’Mahony, T Ó Sé (c), J Lyne; S Scanlon, D Moran; G Sayers, D O’Sullivan, D Walsh; D Geaney, M O’Donoghue, P Geaney.