It might be very early in the hurling year for markers to be plunged into forgiving soft ground, while, if they are, any notion that they could be a barometer for how the season might unfold is foolhardy.
After all, in the first flush of 2019 the Clare hurlers showed oodles of intent and endeavour in romping to Munster League success, hitting Tipperary for four goals and a 10-point drubbing in the final in the Gaelic Grounds.
As it turned out, that January 13 workout proved to be a rare high-point in Clare’s year, with their season in league and championship subsequently fading away into a nothingness that finally saw change come dropping slow when Brian Lohan was installed as manager for the next two years at least.
But, it’s precisely because of Lohan’s presence on the sideline in Clare for the first time as manager — prowling and patrolling his line like he once did the territory around his own goal — that the crowd will come to the home of the 2019 Clare champions on Sunday.
“Be in no doubt about it but O’Garney Park is braced for a big turnout,” says Sixmilebridge stalwart and commentator Syl O’Connor, “because when a new manager comes in everyone is looking for a new direction. That’s what the public are looking for with Brian Lohan.
“Whether it’s in January or in summer Clare and Limerick always draw a crowd and there will be up to 2,000 at this game. From the Clare end it’s not about the result; the number one thing is that the team shows a small bit of fire and dedication that could be a pointer for the season ahead,” he adds.
That season began on December 15 when a largely experimental Clare side, that fielded just three survivors of the 2013 All-Ireland win in Podge Collins, Seadna Morey and Cathal McInerney, produced a late surge to score a one-point win over an understrength Tipperary side in Nenagh.
“We will have a similar team to the one we played against Tipperary in the first round,” says Lohan.
We are continuing to have a look a guys and give them an opportunity to stake a claim for a place on the panel for the league.
“We are working with a panel of 44 guys at the moment — obviously we can’t keep a panel of 44 going on for the rest of the year so we will be reviewing that at the end of the Munster League competition,” he adds.
With Limerick also expected to be in developmental mode, much will change between now and when the real business of the hurling year cranks to life, but for Lohan there will always be an edge.
As a Clare player — now as Clare manager.
“In the overall scheme of things the Munster League isn’t that important,” he admits, “but it’s an important game for anyone who is playing on Sunday.
“Any time you play against Limerick there is something at stake,” he continues.
Any time you play a game of hurling there is something at stake and that will be the case on Sunday and it will be the very same for the Limerick lads as it is for our lads.