Long-serving Clare footballer David Tubridy has described their successful relegation escape “as a huge result for the future of Clare football”.
With twenty 20 seconds of regulation time remaining on the clock at Semple Stadium, Clare trailed Tipperary by 1-19 to 2-13 and appeared destined for a return to Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.
A Keelan Sexton goal, however, followed by injury-time points from veterans Tubridy and Gary Brennan, steered the Banner to safety and secured Colm Collins’ side a fourth spring in the league’s second tier.
Having joined the Clare set-up in 2008, Tubridy spent the first seven years of his inter-county career toiling in the basement of Division 4. Memorable times, they weren’t. There followed two seasons in Division 3 before further promotion in the spring of 2016.
Tubridy is adamant that in order for Clare football to continue to grow and develop, they must remain in the top half of the league structure. Relegation to Division 3 was a regressive step that they simply could not afford.
“Starting off with Clare, we were in Division 4 for seven years. It is a tough spot to get out of. I know a lot of counties will be thinking that if you’re good enough, you should easily come out of it. But you have to win every single game to come out of Division 4 and there always seemed to be an upset which stopped us getting up,” Tubridy recalls.
“Once we did get out of Division 4, Colm [Collins] always told us we were a top 16 team. It showed there (on Sunday). I’ve seen teams down through the years that have slipped down through divisions and it was very important for us to stay in Division 2, not alone for ourselves, but for the future of Clare football. To stay in Division 2 is a huge result for Clare football and a huge result for the future of Clare football. It is just a great feeling what we have managed here.”
Behind by five at the break, corner-forward Tubridy kicked 1-1 during the eight-minute spell directly after half-time where the visitors to Thurles turned a five-point interval deficit into a three-point advantage. It was here, both managers agreed afterwards, where this Division 2 fixture was won and lost.
“There were a few home truths from Colm at half-time and that really got us going. We just couldn’t let that man down given all he has done for Clare football over the last six years,” Tubridy continued. “The second-half was some rollercoaster ride. There were ups and downs all over the place. Once we kept within three points, there was always that little glimmer of hope that a chance might come our way towards the end of the game. We battled on and battled on, and Keelan’s goal was a great finish.”
The victory and preservation of their Division 2 status was the perfect end to an otherwise up-and-down spring and has them in a positive frame of mind ahead of their championship opener against Waterford on May 11. Under Collins, this Clare side are chasing a sixth consecutive Munster SFC quarter-final win.
“If we had lost today, we would have been down and it would have been hard to pick us up, especially after relegation to Division 3. Today is a great boost going into the championship. We are really looking forward to the Waterford game in Ennis in seven weeks.”