The Clare senior footballers will be without their two All-Star nominees next season as captain Gary Brennan has joined Jamie Malone in opting out of the squad.
After 14 consecutive seasons lining out for the senior footballers, Clondegad man Brennan, 30, wants to take a break from the demands of inter-county football. He is soon to be married and intends travelling during the summer of 2020.
The Clare Champion has reported the news of the midfielder’s decision and sources close to the player have confirmed he is sitting out the year.
It remains to be seen if July’s All-Ireland SFC fourth round defeat to Meath will turn out to be Brennan’s last in a Clare jersey.
If so, it will have had nothing to do with his performance levels as he was close to a second All-Star candidacy this year having delivered excellent performances during the qualifiers.
There had been speculation current All-Star nominee Malone would return from travelling in time for next year’s Championship but it also believed he may now miss the entirety of Clare’s 2020 season.
News of Brennan and Malone’s exits will come as major blows to Clare’s hopes of reaching a first Munster final since 2012 as well as their hopes of retaining their Division 2 status having just avoid relegation last season. Along with Brennan and Malone, Seán O’Donoghue, who has moved back to the US, and Aaron Fitzgerald will also be unavailable for the Banner County.
Their provincial quarter-final opponents Tipperary must plan without their own star player in Michael Quinlivan, who will also be travelling after Clonmel Commercials’ interests in the club championship end.
The winners of Clare and Tipperary face Limerick or Waterford in the last four. Clare’s first home game in Division 2 next year is against Kildare on February 2 while they begin the defence of the McGrath Cup away to Limerick in Group A before they host Waterford.
Meanwhile, as John Fitzgerald joins Shane O’Neill’s management team as coach to the Galway senior hurlers, Fergal Healy and Brendan Hanley are being touted as the natives set to come on board as selectors.
Craughwell man Healy, a coach and selector with the county minors this year, lined out in two All-Ireland SHC finals. Gantley has managed Portumna in recent seasons. Na Piarsaigh pair O’Neill and Fitzgerald have also worked with each other in Nenagh Éire Óg.
O’Neill was to meet the 2019 panel today but it was postponed due to the funeral of Miko Donoghue, father of previous Galway manager Micheál.
Elsewhere, the U20 All-Ireland final could return to Croke Park for the first time since 2011 when it was U21 as the GAA looks to fill in the St Patrick’s Day void left by the All-Ireland senior club finals. The Central Competitions Control Committee had hoped to play a senior game in GAA HQ on March 17 but it is not suitable as St Patrick’s Day next year falls on a Tuesday.
The U20 competition will not be developmental next year as U20 players will be eligible for both the under-age and senior grades.