Both Jamie Barron, of Waterford, and Shane Golden, of Clare, took positives from Sunday’s Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL game last Sunday.
Clare ran up a big lead in the first half, but Waterford almost caught them on the finish line, giving both teams plenty to ponder after the clash in Dungarvan.
“I’d say, for about 60 minutes we were dominating fairly well. We just seemed to be going pretty well,” said Golden.
“Obviously, it put a bit of a dampener at the end, because it finished a bit too close for comfort, but, overall, we did perform pretty well and we could be happy with the performance. We lost concentration at the end, but it’s something to work on for the next day.
“The big thing from last week (versus Cork) was that we started so poorly and were down so much at half-time. The big focus was to take the first 15 or 20 and go from there and I think we flew out of the traps with seven points scored in quick succession.
“We were holding them to frees and that was really positive. Hopefully, we can build from that and put two good halves together.”
Barron pointed to the calendar in assessing the weekend’s work.
“January is about getting the work done and getting those fitness levels up again after the Christmas, and between the game against Cork, last Wednesday, and Clare, on Sunday, we got two good games under our belt in one week.
“We’d be happy enough with that. It was a good week’s work, even if the result on Sunday wasn’t what we were looking for. You can do all the training you like and play practice matches amongst yourselves, but there’s no substitute for real games against good opposition.
“We were out on Sunday in a really good game and we were also improving our match fitness at the same time, obviously, after the Christmas break.”
It’s a time of year when players try to stake a claim for a starting place, said Golden: “Big time. The last 12 months have been pretty bad with injury.
“I missed this time last year with injury; I missed about five months in a row. I was just sitting on the sideline and I know, now, that I’m pushing on in age, too. I can’t be sitting around any longer, I have to be right.
“My body feels pretty good now and I’m so happy that I’m actually able to run out on the field and putting good performances in is an added bonus.”
Clare have plenty of new faces pushing Golden and his teammates. “Often times, you get lads coming in and they find it hard to acclimatise, but, in fairness to the two boys (Diarmuid Ryan and Colin Guilfoyle), physically they’re able for it and hurling-wise they’ve shown it too.
“They’ve just stepped in there the last day and it was no problem to them. It’s great and it really deepens the squad, too, and pushes everyone for places.
“We know the way the league is, and the championship: you’re going to need a big panel and I think the big thing is, the more players you have playing well, the stronger it is for us and we’re glad to have so many lads fighting for positions.”
For Barron and his colleagues, the early exit from last year’s championship means the appetite is sharp for 2019.
“We’re looking forward to the league. It won’t be long at all coming round again to us,” said the Nire-Fourmilewater clubman.
“I’d say most of the lads are looking forward to this season even more than usual, because we went out early enough last summer.
“Going out of the championship that early means you had a good few months where you’re watching other teams tear into it. The likes of Clare, Galway, Cork, and Limerick were playing in unbelievable games, All-Ireland finals and semi-finals, and it would only drive you to get back there.
“We’ve been itching for the new year to start, and, thank God, we’re back into it now; it’s all systems go.”
Back with the club, Barron had a good run last year.
“We (The Nire) won the county and had a couple of games in the Munster club, so, at least, I had that when Waterford were gone out of the championship.
“In one way it was ideal, because I had the time to give to the club and we were able to drive it on, and it was great to win the county, obviously. But, now, the main focus is on Waterford again.”
Clare face Tipperary next weekend in the Munster League final, and Golden is keen to do well, after injury marred 2018 for him.
“In years gone by, you mightn’t have taken these things too seriously, but we just want to win every game, really. We don’t put a massive emphasis on any sort of competition. It’s mostly the games that we try to focus on and win.
“The (national) league itself is only a few weeks after the final, so it’s going to be a good run-in against Tipperary.”