The work on the new stand and terracing has been continuing apace in recent months and will be ready just in time when a crowd of around 12,000 is expected to descend on Ennis for next Sunday’s showdown.
Clare have been busy sorting their squad as well, and the return of Podge Collins after his cruciate nightmare raised the biggest cheer of the afternoon when he was introduced. By the end Darach Honan, out since the opening round win over Offaly, was also back on the park but manager Davy Fitzgerald warned they would have a big task next Sunday against their Munster rivals.
“I went in and watched Limerick Satirdau night and they knocked up 6-29. I thought they were absolutely on fire. We struggled to beat Laois the week before.
“Limerick were at championship pace so there is a lot of thinking to be done during the week of how we are going to stem them, but it is a big task.”
This was the 14th league meeting between these two, Clare having won 11 of them. The last time Kerry beat the Bannermen was in 1995 when Clare were the reigning All-Ireland champions, but any notions of a repeat shock were not long in being dispelled. Kerry packed out their defence and with goalkeeper Aidan McCabe in top form it minimized the extent of the defeat. But if the route to goal was barred then Clare took the other option and availed of the space out wide to pick off some excellent points.
Aaron Cunningham, particularly prominent in the second-half, landed six from play and Colm Galvin and Conor McGrath hit five apiece.
Shane O’Donnell saw one effort hit the crossbar, while McCabe did well to deny a ground shot from the All-Ireland hat-trick hero.
McCabe also saved a penalty from Bobby Duggan but Clare still led by 0-15 to 0-6 at the break, with Michael O’Leary lifting the siege with a couple of points from play and John Egan hitting three frees and one from play.
Clare pulled away in the second-half, five points in succession being followed by a flicked goal from John Conlong after 49 minutes after McCabe did well to deny David Reidy with another top class save.
Duggan made amends for the earlier effort by blasting a 58th penalty to the net before Kerry captain Daniel Collins saw a long range free end up in the net.
By then, though, their thoughts might have swung to next Sunday’s trip to Birr to take on Offaly, but manager Ciaran Carey was not down-heartened with the result.
“It’s a big defeat but still a huge improvement on this time last year. The player base we are working from is much smaller than everyone else. We had about four minors out there but overall I was thrilled with their attitude and with the second-half performance. They never gave up. It is a work in progress in Kerry and it will take time. We started the league well and played well in the first two games. We got a bit of a hiding last week, same again now, but we just need to bounce back.
“It is all new to these guys. Clare were All-Ireland champions three years ago, Kerry are after coming from 4A or 4B. I think it says it all.”
B Duggan 1-7 (1-0 pen, 0-5f, 0-1 ’65), A Cunningham 0-6, C Galvin 0-5, C McGrath 0-5, J Conlon 1-0, D Reidy 0-2, C Cleary 0-1, B Bugler 0-1, C O’Connell 0-1.
J Egan 0-4 (3f), D Collins 1-0f, M O’Leary 0-2, B Brosnan 0-1, J Buckley 0-1, J Diggins 0-1.
D Tuohy; O O’Brien, P O’Connor, P Flanagan; B Bugler, D McInerney, C Cleary; D Reidy, C Ryan; J Conlon, B Duggan, C Galvin; A Cunningham, S O’Donnell, C McGrath.
P Collins for Ryan (44 mins), C O’Connell (0-01) for O’Donnell (44 mins), A Shanagher for Conlon (49 mins), C O’Doherty for Flanagan (60 mins), D Honan for McGrath (67 mins).
A McCabe; D Fitzell, P Kelly, K Carmody; D Collins, D Dineen, T Murnane; T Casey, J Griffin; J Diggins, M O’Leary, C Harty; J Egan, M Boyle, J Buckley.
S Weir for Fitzell (32 mins), J Conway for Boyle (45 mins), J Goulding for Harty (45 mins), B Brosnan (0-01) for Casey (51 mins), B O’Leary for Egan (51 mins).
B Gavin (Offaly).